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"STRAY PAPERS." By W. M. Thackeray 



( fiv D^rmjsswn of M'a.wr IVUJj/uThH Lamb art. J 

: : WILLIAM : : 





Plymouth: wm. brendon and son, ltd., printers 


SAm'A BAliHAih 





TEN years have passed since I published a 
biography of Thackeray. This has been 
out of print for a long time, and Messrs. 
Hutchinson and Company have generously 
restored to me their rights in that book. The present 
Life, however, is not a reprint, nor a revised edition 
of the previous one, but an entirely new work, the 
writing of which, together with the collateral reading, 
has occupied the leisure of several years. Though I 
am only too well aware how much better the task 
might have been carried out, at least I can claim that 
this is an improvement upon the earlier work. 

''When a man has exercised a large influence on 
the minds of his contemporaries, the world requires to 
know whether his own actions have corresponded with 
his teaching, and whether his moral and personal 
character entitled him to confidence. This is not idle 
curiosity : it is a legitimate demand." So says Froude 
in his preface to the life of Carlyle, and there are few 
who will care to dispute the point. When my bio- 
graphy of Thackeray was published in 1899, there 
was some discussion as to whether it should have 
been written, for it was said that Thackeray had 
desired there should be no biography of him. It was 
agreed by most critics, however, that such an injunc- 
tion could only be held to bind his relatives; and, we 


know, those closely connected with him have inter- 
preted this in the letter rather than the spirit of the 
injunction. It is true that there has been no formal 
biography, but the delightful Introductions to the 
Biographical Edition of his works by his daughter, 
Lady Ritchie, so nearly approach this (except in the 
matter of arrangement) that Mr. Clement Shorter, who 
has had them bound up together, says, and with 
reason, that he may fairly claim to possess an author- 
ised Life of Thackeray by his daughter. It is not 
only Lady Ritchie, however, who has drawn aside the 
veil. Sir Leslie Stephen, Thackeray's son-in-law, 
wrote a memoir, and Thackeray's relatives and con- 
nections by marriage, the Rev. St. John Thackeray, 
Mr. Richard Bedingfield, and Canon Irvine, have 
jotted down their memories of the great man ; while 
his friends, the Brookfields and the Baxters, have 
printed his letters to them. Indeed, most of his 
friends have at one time or another given their re- 
collections of him to the world, and among these may 
be mentioned Mr. J. F. Boyes, Dr. John Brown, the 
Misses Corkran, Mr. Eyre Crowe, the Rev. Whitwell 
Elwin, Mr. James T. Fields and his wife, Mr. Blanchard 
Jerrold, Mr. Cordy Jeaffreson, Mr. Locker-Lampson, 
Mr. Herman Merivale, Dr. Merriman, the Hon. W. B. 
Reed, and Anthony Trollope, Since, then, Thackeray's 
relatives and friends have recounted everything they 
could remember about him and have printed most of 
his letters that have been preserved, a stranger can 
scarcely be expected to interpret Thackeray's wish more 
stringently than those who knew him well. I think, 
since it is upon these revelations that my book is in the 
main based, my position requires no defence — though. 


if defence is necessary, it is to be found in Thackeray's 
words : — 

We all want to know details regarding the men who 
have achieved famous feats, whether of war, or wit, 
or eloquence, or endurance, or knowledge. . . . We 
want to see this man who has amused and charmed 
us ; who has been our friend, or given us hours of 
pleasant companionship and pleasant thought.^ 

I have endeavoured to write a straightforward 
narrative of the novelist's life, and throughout to 
follow what would certainly have been the great man's 
wish, that truth should be told, and the scars painted 
in the portrait. 

Thackeray liked to read of the lives of literary men — 

If the secret history of books could be written, and 
the author's private thoughts noted down alongside of 
his story, how many insipid volumes would become 
interesting, and dull tales excite the reader !^ 

His stories are frequently autobiographical ; he often 
drew upon his experiences, notably in " Pendennis" and 
*' Philip"; so that the reader, knowing his life, must 
certainly find an added pleasure when reading the 
novels. His departure from India, his arrival in 
England, his early school-life, the Charterhouse days, 
Larkbeare, Cambridge, his misfortunes in London, 
his life in the Paris studios, the newspapers he 
was connected with, the people he met, the places he 
visited, are all reproduced under thin disguises. At 
the same time it has to be borne in mind that his books 
are no mere transcript from his life, and, while often 
illustrating an incident in the novelist's career by an 
extract from his writings, I have been careful to do so 

' On a Joke I once heard from the late Thomas Hood. 


only when there is every reason to believe that the 
passages quoted are indeed autobiographical. 

There is no lack of material for the biographer of 
Thackeray, for, as has been said, a great number 
of his letters have been printed as well as the recollec- 
tions of many who knew him. The primary authorities, 
of course, are Lady Ritchie's Biographical Introductions 
and Sir Leslie Stephen's memoir ; and only next in 
importance to these is the monograph by Mr. Herman 
Merivale and Sir Frank T. Marzials. Mr. John 
Camden Hotten's book on "Thackeray, the Humourist 
and the Man of Letters" is a useful compilation. Sir 
William Hunter has written of the novelist's forbears 
in "The Thackerays in India"; Mr. J. F. Boyes has 
given his impression of Thackeray at the Charterhouse ; 
and the Rev. Whitwell Elwin, who also treats of this 
early period, carries on the narrative to the time when 
Thackeray was in search of a profession. Thackeray 
in a letter to Lewes recalled memories of his stay at 
Weimar; and "The Paris Sketch Book" and the con- 
tributions to the Corsair and the Britannia contain 
first-hand accounts of the time spent at Paris. Mr. C. P. 
Johnson has outlined the early years of Thackeray 
as a writer, and further particulars of the period are to 
be found in Thackeray's letters to Edward FitzGerald, 
Lord Houghton, Macvey Napier, and Professor Aytoun, 
in the autobiographies of Sir Henry Cole and Henry 
Vizetelly, in Mr. Fitzpatrick's "Life of Charles Lever," 
etc. Mr. M. H. Spielmann has written of Thackeray's 
connection with Punch; and for the years after the pub- 
lication of "Vanity Fair" there are Thackeray's letters 
to the Brookfields, the correspondence of Charlotte 
Bronte, the Carlyles, and the Brownings, and memoirs 


too numerous to mention. There are records of the 
American trips in Thackeray's letters to the Hon. 
William B. Reed and the Baxters, in Eyre Crowe's 
''With Thackeray in America," the biographies and 
correspondence of Prescott, Ticknor, Motley, Bancroft, 
Longfellow, James T. Fields, Lester Wallack, etc. ; 
and much interesting information has been collected 
by General James Grant Wilson in " Thackeray in the 
United States. " Thackeray's connection with the Corn- 
hill Magazine has been told by Lady Ritchie and 
Mr. George M. Smith in articles entitled respectively. 
The First Number of the Cornhill and Our Birth 
and Parentage. A full list of authorities is printed at 
the end of this work. 

Since the publication of my earlier work on Thackeray 
I have received from correspondents personally un- 
known to me many letters containing information and 
suggestions, and I take this opportunity to tender my 
thanks to these gentlemen, among whom I may mention 
Dr. Marcus P. Hatfield, of Chicago, Mr. Leonard L. 
Mackall, of Jena, and Mr. W. Reid Lewis, of Bedford. 
I must also express my indebtedness for assistance 
kindly rendered by Mr. Thomas Seccombe and the Rev. 
Henry W. Clark, both of whom have read the proofs of 
this book; Mr. Frederick S. Dickson, and Mr. Walter 
Jerrold. His Excellency the American Ambassador (the 
Hon. Whitelaw Reid) has kindly permitted me to quote 
a passage from a speech recently delivered by him at the 
Titmarsh Club ; and Sir Frank T. Marzials has most 
generously allowed me to make use of the monograph 
on Thackeray in the "Great Writers'" Series, written 
by him in collaboration with the late Herman Merivale. 

For permission to insert letters written by Thack- 


eray I am indebted to Sir Theodore Martin and 
Messrs. William Blackwood and Sons (two letters 
from Sir Theodore Martin's '' Life of W. E. 
Aytoun "), Messrs. William Blackwood and Sons (a 
letter from Mrs. Oliphant's '' Annals of a Publishing 
House," and another from Anthony TroUope's "Auto- 
biography"), Mr. M. H. Spielmann (a letter from 
"The Hitherto Unidentified Contributions of W. M. 
Thackeray to Pimck^^), Mr. John Murray (a letter from 
"The Correspondence of Abraham Hayward "), Lady 
Reid, Lord Crewe, and Messrs. Cassell and Co., Ltd. 
(three letters from Sir T. Wemyss Reid's " Life of Lord 
Houghton "), and Mr. W. Lawrence Bradbury (two 
letters in his possession). Mr. Clement Shorter has 
kindly allowed me to quote from "The Brontes: Life 
and Letters," and Messrs. Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 
from Lady Ritchie's "Chapters from Some Memoirs" 
and "The Letters of Edward FitzGerald." Mr. S. 
Causley, the owner of the only known copy of the rare 
pamphlet " Proceedings at the Thirteenth Anniversary 
Festival of The Royal General Theatrical Fund, 1858," 
has been good enough to permit me to copy the hitherto 
unreprintedspeechof Thackeray contained therein ; and 
Major William H. Lambert, of Philadelphia, has most 
generously had photographed for insertion in this book 
four portraits of Thackeray in his possession, never 
before published. In the Foreword to the Bibliography 
I acknowledge further debts of gratitude for informa- 
tion given me in connection with that section. 


Salcombe, Harpenden, Herts, 
June 30, 1909. 



Preface ix 

Contents xv 

Illustrations xxiii 



The Thackeray family — John de Thackwra — William de Thackwra 
— Robert Thackra — Walter Thackeray of Hampsthwaite — 
Elias Thackeray — Archdeacon Thackeray — his sons and 
daughters — the Rev. Elias Thackeray, Vicar of Dundalk — 
and Thackeray's tribute to him in "The Irish Sketch Book" — 
the Archdeacon's fifth son — and his family — William Make- 
peace Thackeray, grandfather of the novelist — the Thack- 
erays a typical Anglo-Indian family — the novelist's uncles 
and aunts — his cousin Sir Richmond Shakespear— Richmond 
Thackeray and Anne Becher, the novelist's parents — the 
birth of Thackeray ....... Pages 3-12 


CHILDHOOD (1811-1S22) 

Death of Richmond Thackeray — Thackeray and Richmond Shake- 
spear sent to England, 1817 — Thackeray's recollections of 
India — his subsequent acquaintance with Anglo-Indians — his 
mother's teachings — their affection for each other — her marriage 
with Major Carmichael-Smyth — Major and Mrs. Carmichael- 
Smyth return to England, 1821 — Thackeray's journey from India 
to England — he sees Napoleon at St. Helena — stays with his 
guardian, Peter Moore, at Hadley — and afterwards with Mrs. 
Becher, at Fareham — goes to school at Southampton — his un- 
happiness there — sent to Dr. Turner's school at Chiswick — 
Walpole House and Miss Pinkerton's Academy . . 13-20 





Thackeray goes to the Charterhouse, 1822 — Dr. John Russell — 
Dr, Russell portrayed in " Pendcnnis " — Thackeray unhappy at 
the Charterhouse — at the Rev. Edward Penny's house in Wilder- 
ness Row — becomes a day-boy and lives at Mrs. Boyes's — his 
studies — his schoolfellows — his love of reading-, and especially 
of novel-reading — first attempts to write — his earliest verses — 
his passion for caricature — description of him as a schoolboy — 
his nose broken in a fight — he creates " Grey Friars " — visits his 
old school — Thackeray the great apostle of "tipping" — the 
Poor Brethren of the Charterhouse — a prototype of Colonel 
Newcome — Thackeray's description of Grey Friars in "The 
Newcomes" .... .... Pages 21-^1 



Thackeray leaves the Charterhouse — stays with his mother and 
stepfather at Larkbeare, Ottery St. Mary — prepares for 
Cambridge — Larkbeare and Ottery St. Mary in "Pendennis" — 
"Irish Melody" — Captain Costigan and Miss Fotheringay — at 
Cambridge — Thackeray's good intentions — his studies — his 
amusements — ^his views on history — and on Shelley — speech at 
the Union on Napoleon — assists in the formation of an Essay 
Club — contributes to the Sjtob — " Timbuctoo " — " Rams- 
bottom Papers " — his friendships — Richard Monckton Milnes — 
Rev. W. H. Brookfield and his wife — Edward Fitzgerald — 
Alfred Tennyson ......... 42-67 


AM RHEIN (1 830-1 83 1) 

Thackeray goes abroad — Paris — Coblenz — Godesberg — Cologne 
— Weimar — Weimar in "Vanity Fair" — his flirtations — Doro- 
thea and her prototype — his opinions of the German writers — 
Mme. Goethe— "Grand Old Goethe" .... 68-80 


THE TEMPLE (1831-1832) 

Thackeray a student of Middle Temple — chambers at No. 2, Brick 
Court — writes of the literary associations of the Temple — the. 


Temple in his writings — loses money at cards — the original of 
Deuceace — chambers at No. lo, Crown Office Row — work and 
play- — dislike of the law — goes to Cornwall to canvass for Charles 
Buller — comes of age — abandons the law — goes to Paris — loses 
his patrimony Pages 81-90 



Thackeray's thoughts incline to literature — Becomes proprietor 
and editor of the National Standard — his contributions to that 
paper — the failure of the National Standard — the story of the 
venture related in " Lovel the Widower" — he proposes to be- 
come a painter — and studies at Paris — his fondness for Paris — 
his first visit to that city — Eyre Evans Crowe and his family — 
Thackeray on the artist's life at Paris — abandons painting for 
caricature — "Flore et Zephyr" — offers to illustrate "Pickwick" 
— "Mr. Pickwick's lucky escape" — illustrates most of his own 
books — aware of the limitations of his art — Charlotte Bronte on 
Thackeray as illustrator ....... gi-iii 


MARRIAGE (1836-1840) 

Major Carmichael-Smyth founds the Cottstittdiorial newspaper — 
and appoints Thackeray Paris Correspondent — Thackeray 
marries Isabella Getkin Creagh Shawe at Paris — works on 
GalignanVs Messenger — happy days — "Bouillabaisse" — sum- 
moned to London to manage the Cojistitiitional — the failure of 
the Constitutional — Thackeray and his wife stay with his 
mother — takes a house in Great Coram Street, Bloomsbury — 
the birth of his two eldest daughters — Bloomsbury in his books 
— the Foundling hospital — his fondness for children — the British 
Museum — "Going to see a Man Hanged" — his third daughter 
born — his wife's illness — the compulsory separation — the happi- 
ness of his brief married life — his love for his children . 1 12-128 


IN GRUB STREET (1837-1846) 

Writes for the Times — and for Erasers Magazine — his earliest con- 
tributions io Fraser''s Magazine — the authorship of "Elizabeth 
Brownrigge " — and the resemblance between that story and 
"Catherine" — " Fashnable Fax and Polite Annygoats " — Mr. 
Yellowplush's other papers — strikes for higher pay — his qualifi- 



cations as a writer for the periodical press — his knowledge of 
art and foreign languages — suggests himself for the editorship 
of the Foreign Quarterly Reviciu — and as a contributor to Black- 
woocTs Magazhie — Sir Henry Cole's tribute to his powers — the 
Anti-Corn Law Circular — "The Pen and the Album" — writes 
for many periodicals — contributions to Fraser's Magazine — 
" The Paris Sketch Book" — " The Second Funeral of Napoleon" 
— replies to the Times' criticism of that book — " Comic Tales 
and Sketches " — " The Irish Sketch Book " — stays with Charles 
Lever at Templeogue — Thackeray on the Irish — the " Life of 
Talleyrand" — "Barry Lyndon" — "From Cornhill to Grand 
Cairo " — Carlyle resents Thackeray accepting a free passage — 
Thackeray's reply — " Titmarsh at Jerusalem" — Thackeray's 
religion — his indignation with Mrs. Trollope's interpretation of 
the Scriptures— his dislike of the Jews and the Roman Catholics 
— his attitude towards " Papal Aggression " — his attack on 
asceticism — his doubts of the infallibility of the Bible— his deep 
sense of religion — his fearless outlook on death . . Pages 129-158 



The savagery of criticism in the earlier decades of the nineteenth 
century — Thackeray's papers on art — his outspokenness — and 
the anger of the painters — his opinion of " Christian " or 
"Catholic" art — and of the historical school of painting — his 
appreciation of "The Fighting Tdm<5raire" — and of George 
Cruikshank — miscellaneous criticism of books — on Byron — on 
the annuals — his attack on Ainsworth — his explanation — on the 
Newgate school of fiction — " Catherine" — its purpose — and the 
author's criticism of his book — his savage attacks on Bulwer- 
Lytton — and his subsequent cry of " Peccavi " — "Mr. Yellow- 
plush's Ajew " — his appreciation of many contemporary writers 
— Scott and Dumas his favourite novelists — his opinions of 
Swift, Sterne, Addison, Steele, Goldsmith, Prior and Gay — 
of Smollett and Fielding — his love for kindly writers — and 
happy endings ......... 159-182 



Thackeray's success with the " Yellowplush Papers" in England 
and America — his opinion of "The Great Hoggarty Diamond" 
— and John Sterling's appreciation of that story — Thackeray's 
position in the literary world in 1843 — his income — his belief in 


his gift of writing — some reasons why he did not earlier become 
famous — his use of pseudonyms — his best work not published 
in book-form — he runs counter to the feeling of the public — his 
earlier works considered — the " Yellowplush Correspondence" 
—"Catherine"— "A Shabby Genteel Story" — the " Fitz- 
Boodle Papers " — " Barry Lyndon " .... Pa^^s 183-200 



Thackeray, after his wife's illness, leaves Great Coram Street — 
and lives in apartments in Jermyn Street — becomes a frequenter 
of clubs — the Garrick — the Reform — the Atheneeum — his de- 
scription of Bohemia — and his visits to it — haunts that have 
disappeared — the "Coal Hole" — the "Cyder Cellars" — and a 
description of it in " Pendennis " — "Evans's" — Colonel New- 
come at the "Cave of Harmony" — the Fielding Club — Our 
Club — Thackeray's love of " the play " — some visits to the 
theatre as a boy — and at Weimar — the theatre in his writings — 
" The Wolves and the Lamb " 201-223 


"VANITY FAIR" (1847-1848) 

Thackeray's position in literary circles in 1846 — his connection with 
Punch — his early contributions to that periodical — the pro- 
prietors dissatisfied with " Miss Tickletoby's Lectures" — which 
were therefore discontinued — Thackeray takes his place at the 
Round Table, 1843 — "Jeames's Diary" attracts attention — 
"The Snobs of England" — and the influence of these papers 
on Thackeray's reputation — Thackeray determined to make a 
bid for fame — " Vanity Fair" begun — the MS. of the novel not 
" hawked round the town " — accepted by Messrs. Bradbury and 
Evans — Thackeray's letters to Aytoun in January 1847 — 
" Vanity Fair " published in monthly numbers — its sales in- 
crease — Thackeray's works never so popular as those of 
Dickens — " Currer Bell" dedicates "Jane Eyre" to Thackeray 
— Abraham Hayward praises " Vanity Fair" in the Edinburgh 
Review — the charge of cynicism brought against Thackeray — 
his defence — his philosophy — the text from which he preached — 
"Vanitas Vanitatum " — the gospel of love — Thackeray's char- 
acter criticised by his contemporaries — he created no heroes 
or heroines — his desire to draw men and women — his char- 
acters human — his portrait gallery — the novelist's depredators — 
his faults as a novelist — his asides— his method of writing — his 
style — his place in English literature ..... 224-259 




Thackeray lionised by society — his amusement at being so treated 
— applause an incentive to him — society provides material for 
his writings — speech-making — his "smash" at a Literary Fund 
Dinner — and at Manchester — his speech at the banquet given 
on his departure for America, 1855 — his belief that practice in 
speaking would enable him to express his opinions in the House 
of Commons — charged with tuft-hunting — the disadvantages of 
success — he loses old friends — much improved by success — 
tributes by Albert Smith, John Hollingshead, Frederick Locker- 
Lampson, Henry Vizetelly- — Dr. John Brown and the Rev. 
Whitwell Elwin — attacks on him — his moods — Mrs. J. T. Fields' 
opinion of him — his charity — and his kindness — interests himself 
in Louis Marvy and others — his sh3'ness — and his occasional 
savagery — his sense of fun — his conversation — some bons mots 
and impromptus — sadness the keynote to his character Pages 260-281 


PUNCH (1 847-1 854) 

Thackeray's earnings in 1848 — success of "Vanity Fair" in book- 
form — Thackeray resigns the assistant -editorship of the 
Examiner — and retires from the staff of Eraser's Magazine — 
his Christmas Books — the Times' attack on "The Kickleburys 
on the Rhine" — and Thackeray's reply, "An Essay on Thunder 
and Small Beer " — Thackeray sensitive to criticism — but makes 
jokes at his own expense — writes again for the Morning Chronicle 
— his contributions to Punch from 1847 — " Punch's Prize Novel- 
ists" — " Mr. Brown's Letters to a Young Man About Town" — 
the " Proser Papers" — withdraws from Punch in 1S54 — his 
reference to his withdrawal in his article on John Leech — a slip 
of the pen — his letter to the proprietors of Punch concerning his 
resignation — he attends the dinners to the end — his indebtedness 
to Punch — Punch's tribute to him — and his to Punch — his friends 
and the staff — Douglas Jerrold — Thackeray's Ballads — " Bow 
Street Ballads" — "Lyra Hibernica " — his limitations as a 
writer of verse — his sense of parody — and of tenderness — 
"The Cane-Bottomed Chair"— "St. Sophia of Kioff"— "The 
Chronicle of the Drum " — his merits as a writer of light and 
humorous verse ......... 282-306 



"PENDENNIS" (1849-1850) 

Thackeray living at No. 88, St. James's Street — takes a house, 
No. 13 (now 16), Young- Street, Kensington — and has his 
daughters brought to him there — the greater part of "Vanity 
Fair" written in that house — his acquaintance with Charlotte 
Bronte — her appreciation of him — a dismal dinner party — "The 
Last Sketch " — Thackeray dissatisfied with his financial pros- 
pects — endeavours to obtain the secretaryship of the Post Office 
— and, failing, tries to get a magistracy — Horace Smith — the 
Misses Smith and " Pendennis " — the publication of " Pen- 
dennis" begun November 1848 — interrupted by a serious illness 
— some opinions of the earlier parts of the novel — Thackeray's 
recovery — " Pendennis " autobiographical in parts — some proto- 
types of the characters in "Vanity Fair" — of Sir Pitt Crawley, 
Lord Steyne, and Becky Sharp — some prototypes of the charac- 
ters in "Pendennis" — of Warrington, Foker, and Shandon — 
"The Dignity of Literature" — Thackeray on the responsibility 
of an author — the literary man's point of honour . Pages 307-329 



The last number of " Pendennis" issued — Thackeray proposes to 
lecture — his friends' objections — a subject found in "The English 
Humourists of the Eighteenth Century" — the first lecture at 
Willis's Rooms — Thackeray's nervousness — accounts of his 
reading — the audiences — a furore for the lectures — Thackeray 
invited to deliver them in England and America — he writes 
"Esmond" — refuses to contribute to "Social Zoologies" — 
George M. Smith secures the publishing rights of " Esmond " — 
Thackeray's publishers — Thackeray's comments on " Esmond" 
— "Esmond's " place in literature — Thackeray and his daughters 
go abroad — he returns to London — prepares for the American 
lecture tour ......... 330-342 




Thackeray attacked in an American paper before he sails — a fair 
chance given him on arrival — his first dinner at Boston — in New 
York — his great popularity in the United States — his books 
better known there than in England — on pirated editions — 
Thackeray likes America and Americans — his objections to 
personal journalism in the United States — "Mr. Thackeray in 
the United States " — his lectures in New York — and elsewhere 
— "Charity and Humour" — tired of acting the lion — his sudden 
departure for England Pages 343-357 


William Makepeace Thackeray . . Frontispiece 

From an unpublished drawing by Daniel Maclise, circa l8jS- {.By per- 
mission of Majtr William H. Lambert.') 

Walpole House, Chiswick Mall, London . to face page 20 

William Makepeace Thackeray . . . . 22 

From a bust by J. Devile, circa J822, in the National Portrait Gallery. 

The Rev. Edward Penny's House, Wilderness Row, Clerken- 

WELL . . . . ... 24 

Where Thackeray lived when he was first at the Charterhouse. 

The Charterhouse . . . ... 34 

Larkbeare, Ottery St. Mary . . ... 42 

The house 0/ Major and Mrs. Cannichael-Smyih. From a photograph by 
H. D. Badcock. 

Trinity College, Cambridge . . ... 48 

Showing Thackeray's room on the left oj the tower. 

No. 2, Brick Court, Temple, London . . . . 82 

No. 18, Albion Street, Hyde Park, London . . .116 

Where Thackeray and his wife stayed with Major and Mrs. Carmichael- 
Smyth in 1837. 

No. 13, Great Coram Street, Brunswick Square, London . n8 

Where Thackeray and his wife lived, 1837-184.0. 

The Fraserians . . . ... 130 

Frojn a drawing by Daniel Maclise, 1833. 

William Makepeace Thackeray . ... i6o 

From an unpublished water-colour drawing by D. Dighton (f) {By per- 
mission of Major William H. Lambert.) 



Facsimile of Thackeray's Handwriting. A Page of a Letter 

TO T. W. GiBBS, September 12, 1851 . . to face page 178 

From the original in the British Museum. 

W. M. Thackeray, M. J, Higgins, and Henry Reeve . . 202 

From an unpublished pencil sketch by Richard Doyle, in the British 

Thackeray at the Play , . ... 216 

From a sketch by Frederick Walker, in the " Cornhill Magazine," Feb- 
ruary, l8bl. 

William Makepeace Thackeray . ... 224 

From a drawing by Count D'Orsay, 184S. (By permission of Major 
William H. Lambert.) 

William Makepeace Thackeray . ... 282 

From a painting by Samuel Laurence, in the National Po7-trait Gallery. 

Mr. Punch's Fancy Ball . . ... 290 

From a drawing by John Leech, in " Punch" January g, 1847. 

William Makepeace Thackeray . ... 308 

From an unpublished drawing by W. Drujnmond, l8^0. {By permission 
0/ Major William H. Lambert.) 

No. 13 (now 16), Young Street, Kensington, London . . 310 

Where Thackeray lir'ed, 1846-1853. 

William Makepeace Thackeray . ... 330 

From a pencil sketch by Richard Doyle, in the British Museum. 

Mr. Michael Angelo Titmarsh, as he appeared at Willis's 

Rooms in his celebrated character of Mr. Thackeray . 336 

From a sketch by John Leech, in the '^ Month," July, iSjl. 


The Sad Jester . . . ... 357 

A sketch by Thackeray {'^Vanity Fair," chap. VIII.). 


I.— B 




The Thackeray family — John de Thackwra — William de Thackwra 
— Robert Thackra — Walter Thackeray of Hampsthwaite — Elias 
Thackeray — Archdeacon Thackeray — his sons and daughters — the 
Rev. Elias Thackeray, Vicar of Dundalk — and Thackeray's tribute 
to him in "The Irish Sketch Book" — the Archdeacon's fifth son — 
and his family — William Makepeace Thackeray, grandfather of 
the novelist — the Thackerays a typical Anglo-Indian family — the 
novelist's uncles and aunts — his cousin Sir Richmond Shakespear — 
Richmond Thackeray and Anne Becher, the novelist's parents — the 
birth of Thackeray. 

THE family of the Thackerays has been traced 
back to the fourteenth century, when there 
was a John de Thackwra who held of the 
Abbot of St. Mary of Fountains a dwelling- 
house and thirty acres of land at Hartwich in 1336, 
and, twenty-five years after, a William de Thackwra, 
who was tenant at will of a messuage and twenty-one 
acres at the same place. A century later, the family 
records note, a Robert Thackra kept the Grange of 
Brimham for the convent, and subsequently an Edward 

Thacquarye held houses and land from the same con- 
vent. They were a prolific race, these de Thackwras, 
Thackras, and Thacquaryes, who early in the seven- 
teenth century began to adopt the now familiar form of 
the surname. Then Walter Thackeray established 
himself at Hampsthwaite, a hamlet on the Nidd, near 
the forest of Knaresborough, in the West Riding of 
Yorkshire, and there for many decades the family re- 
mained, until this yeoman branch of the line came to 
an end with the death of Thomas Thackeray in 1804, 
seven years before the birth of the novelist. 

Long before this a scion of the race, one Elias 
Thackeray, more restless or more ambitious than the 
rest, had left the homestead, and gone to Christ's 
College, Cambridge, where fortune smiled upon him, 
for, becoming M.A. in 1709, he was two years after 
appointed to the living of Hawkhurst in the Arch- 
deaconry of Richmond, Yorkshire. Not unmindful 
of the claims of his kindred, he charged himself with 
the welfare of a twelve-year-old nephew, Thomas, the 
son of his brother Timothy, whom in January 1706 he 
contrived to place on the foundation at Eton. There 
the lad remained for six years, when he won a foun- 
dation scholarship at King's College, Cambridge, 
where he proceeded to a fellowship in 1715. Thomas 
then, for a while, returned to his old school as an 
assistant master, and, after an unsuccessful application 
in 1744 for the provostship of King's, in 1746 was 
appointed headmaster of Harrow. Harrow school, in 
spite of traditions dating back for two hundred years, 
was at that time in a sad way, having been practically 
ruined under the regime of a drunken, disorderly, idle 


principal ; and when Tliomas began his reign there 
were but thirty boys — a number that under his able 
rule was rapidly increased to one hundred and thirty. 
"Dr. Thackeray," said Dr. Parr, one of his pupils, 
''though a strict disciplinarian, possessed much kind- 
ness of temper, and much suavity of manner. I have 
reason to love and revere him as a father as well as a 
master." He has been described also by Dr. Edmund 
Pyle, who wrote him down "a great scholar in the Eton 
way, and a good one in every way ; and a true Whig." 
The worthy Doctor, in 1730, at the age of thirty-five, 
had married Ann (a daughter of John Woodward, 
Lord of the Manor of Butler's Marston, Warwickshire), 
who, during the next twenty years, bore six sons and 
ten daughters, and survived until 1797. He was 
in 1748 appointed chaplain to Frederick, Prince of 
Wales, and was marked out for further preferment. 
''The Bishop of Winchester (Benjamin Hoadly) never 
saw this man in his life, but had heard so much good 
of him that he resolved to serve him some way or 
other, if ever he could, but said nothing to anybody," 
Dr. Pyle wrote in 1753. "On Friday last he sent 
for this Dr. Thackeray, and when he came into the 
room my lord gave him a parchment, and told him 
he had long heard of his good character, and long 
been afraid he should never be able to give him any 
serviceable proof of the good opinion he had conceived 
of him ; that what he had put into his hands was the 
Archdeaconry of Surrey, which he hoped would be 
acceptable to him, as he might perform the duty of it 
yearly at the time of his leisure in the Easter holidays. 
Dr. Thackeray was so surprised and overcome with 

this extraordinary manner of doing him a favour, that 
he was very near fainting as he was giving him institu- 
tion." Dr. Thackeray held the archdeaconry for the 
remaining seven years of his life. 

It is only necessary here to mention three sons of Dr. 
Thackeray. The fourth, another Thomas (i 736-1 806), 
practised surgery at Cambridge and left issue fifteen 
children ; of whom one daughter, Jane Townley, 
married George Prynne, the political economist; a son, 
William Makepeace,^ settled as a physician at Chester, 
and another, Elias, took orders and became Vicar 
of Dundalk. To this last his relative, the novelist, 
paid tribute in ''The Irish Sketch Book" : — 

I was so lucky as to have an introduction to the 
Vicar of Dundalk, which that gentleman's kind and 
generous nature interpreted into a claim for unlimited 
hospitality ; and he was good enough to consider 
himself not only bound to receive me, but to give up 
previous engagements abroad in order to do so. 
I need not say that it afforded me sincere pleasure to 
witness, for a couple of days, his labours among his 
people ; and indeed it was a delightful occupation to 
watch both flock and pastor. The world is a wicked, 
selfish, abominable place, as the parson tells us ; but 
his reverence comes out of his pulpit and gives the 
flattest contradiction to his doctrine, busying himself 
with kind actions from morning till night, denying to 
himself, generous to others, preaching the truth to 
young and old, clothing the naked, feeding the 
hungry, consoling the wretched, and giving hope 
to the sick. 2 

The fifth son of Dr. Thackeray was a physician at 
Windsor, and in the autobiography of Mrs. Papendiek, 

^ The name Makepeace is said to have been derived from an ancestor 
who suffered at the stake for his faith in the "good old days" of Queen 
Mary. ^ Chap. xxvi. 


Assistant-Keeper of the Wardrobe and Reader to 
Queen Charlotte, may be read the story of his run- 
away marriage, his early death, and his widow's strug- 
gles to bring up her seven children. One of these was 
on the foundation at Eton ; another was a midship- 
man in the navy ; and a third son, George, became 
Provost of King's College, Cambridge. 

Dr. Thackeray's youngest child, William Make- 
peace, grandfather of the novelist, born in 1749, 
entered the East India Company's service. After a 
preliminary training in book-keeping, proficiency in 
which was essential for employment in John Com- 
pany's service, young William sailed in the Lord 
Camden for Calcutta. His career in India was from 
the outset successful. On his arrival, placed in the 
Secretary's office with a salary of ;^8o, his zeal at once 
attracted the notice of Cartier, Governor of Bengal, 
with the result that within twelve months he was made 
assistant-treasurer or cash-keeper at a considerably 
increased stipend. In 1771 he was appointed Factor 
and Fourth in Council at Dacca, where he set up house 
with two sisters whom his advancement enabled him to 
summon from home.^ Warren Hastings made him 

^ These sisters were Jane and Henrietta, then aged respectively 
thirty-two and twenty-two. Jane married on October i6, 1772, Major 
James Rennell, the geographer ; and later in the year Henrietta married 
from her sister's new home James Harris, the head of the East India 
Company's civil service in Eastern Bengal. The Rennells did not go to 
England until 1777, after the loss of their first-born ; but the Harrises 
returned forthwith. Harris purchased a country seat near Chelmsford 
and a town house in Great Ormond Street, then a more fashionable 
district than now ; but when he died it was found his cxtravag'ance had 
made deep inroads into his fortune, although enough was left for his 
widow to live comfortably at Hadley, and to provide an excellent educa- 
tion for the children. 


Collector of the frontier province of Sylhet, and in 
1774 called him back to Dacca as Third in Council. 

Two years later William Makepeace married Amelia, 
daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Richmond Webb, 
a descendant of the victor of Weynendal, whom 
Thackeray has portrayed in "Esmond," and, having 
during his nine and a half years' sojourn in the East 
realised a competence, soon after sailed with his 
eighteen-year-old bride for England. The young 
couple settled down at Hadley, near Chipping Barnet, 
and for the rest of their days led a simple, hospitable 
country life. Mrs. Thackeray died in 1810, and three 
years later was followed to the grave by her husband, 
who was buried under the shadow of the church of 
Monken Hadley, a picturesque building upon the 
tower of which may still be seen the battered frag- 
ments of an old beacon cage. 

William Makepeace it was who founded the great 
Anglo-Indian Thackeray family which. Sir William 
Hunter says, ''formed a typical family of the Bengal 
Service in the days of John Company, threw out 
branches into the sister services, military and medical, 
and by a network of intermarriages created for them- 
selves a ruling connection both in India and in the 
Court of Directors at home."i It has already been 
mentioned how the sisters who went out to him 
married Anglo-Indians, and of the twelve children of 
his marriage, one of whom died in infancy, nine 
went Eastward Ho ! Four sons entered the Madras 
and Bengal civil services, a fifth entered the Indian 
army, a sixth became a barrister and journalist at Cal- 

1 Sir W. W. Hunter : The Thacherays in India. 


cutta ; while two daughters married Bengal civilians, 
and a third became the wife of the Attorney-General 
in Ceylon. 

Of these children, one of them the father of the 
novelist, brief mention must be made. The eldest, 
William Makepeace, was born in 1778, and in his 
twentieth year was sent to Madras, where he was the 
first civilian to secure a reward (under the rules of 
1797, framed for the encouragement of the study of 
Oriental languages) for proficiency in Telugu. His 
rise, like that of his father, was rapid. By Lord Clive 
he was appointed translator at head-quarters ; then, 
assistant to Sir Thomas Munro, Governor of the 
province ; and, later, the first judge of a new court 
established at Masulipatam. He became a member of 
the Board of Revenue in 1806, and four years after was 
promoted to be Chief Secretary to the Madras Govern- 
ment. His health broke down in 1813, and he went 
to England for a while, when the Court of Directors 
took the opportunity to commend his services in a 
despatch. He returned to India in 1816, and was 
appointed a provisional Member of Council and Presi- 
dent of the Board of Revenue in June 1820 ; but the 
long sojourn in a tropical climate had undermined his 
constitution, and he did not live long to enjoy his 
honours. He died on January 11, 1823, while on a sea 
voyage undertaken in the hope of restoring his 

Webb Thackeray, who in 1806, at the age of 
eighteen, went out to Madras as a writer, died within 
a year of his arrival. In the same service as the two 
brothers already mentioned was the fifth son, St. John, 


who, born in 1791, was one of the first civilians sent 
out by the East India College that later developed into 
Haileybury. He went to Madras in 1809, a-^d was 
killed at Kittur Fort where, hoping to bring the in- 
surgents to terms, he advanced without a flag of truce 
and was fired upon. Thomas, the fourth son, entered 
the Bengal army, and was killed in the Nepal War in 
18 14, in an heroic endeavour to cover the retreat of 
some British troops with his Light Company against 
*'a strong and overpowering column of Gurkhas," 
which called forth the highest encomiums in despatches 
from the commander-in-chief and the Government of 
India. Charles, the youngest, became a barrister at 
Calcutta, but obtaining little practice, wrote leading 
articles for the Englishman and other papers. He 
was the most brilliant of the brothers, but, succumb- 
ing to a passion for drink, he sank into an obscure 
grave in the mid forties. The stay-at-home (sixth) 
son, Francis (1793-1842), took holy orders, and retired 
to a Herefordshire parish, where he wrote several 
books, including a work on the ''State of Ancient 
Britain under the Roman Emperors" and the better 
known "History of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham," 
quoted repeatedly by Carlyle in '' Frederick the 
Great," and reviewed by Macaulay, who censured 
what he considered the author's extravagant praise 
of his hero. 

The two sisters who went out in 1802 to join their 
brother Richmond married soon after their arrival : 
Augusta to ''her brother's dearest friend," Mr. Elliott, 
a civilian ; Emily (who died in India) to John Talbot 
Shakespear. Of the latter alliance came nine children. 


the eldest of whom, Colonel John Dowdeswell Shake- 
spear, ''a noble, chivalrous figure," was regarded by 
the family as the prototype of Colonel Newcome. A 
younger son was Colonel Sir Richmond Shakespear, 
who became Agent to the Governor-General for Central 
India, and, just before his death in 1861, was appointed 
by Lord Canning to the Chief Commissionership of 
Mysore. It was to this cousin that the novelist made 
appreciative reference in a " Roundabout Paper." 

*'Can I do anything for you?" I remember the 
kind fellow asking. He was always asking that 
question : of all kinsmen ; of all widows and orphans; 
of all the poor ; of young men who might need 
his purse or his service. I saw a young officer 
yesterday to whom the first words Sir Richmond 
Shakespear wrote on his arrival in India were, " Can 
I do anything for you ? " His purse was at the 
command of all. His kind hand was always open. 
It was a gracious fate which sent him to rescue 
widows and captives. Where could they have had 
a champion more chivalrous, a protector more loving 
and tender?^ 

Richmond, the second son, and father of the novelist, 
was born at South Mimms, on September i, 1781.2 
Sent to Eton at the age of ten, he remained there 
until 1796, when, being nominated to a writership in 
the Bengal Civil Service, he left school to go through 
the usual training in merchants' accounts. He arrived 
in Calcutta in 1798, studied at Fort William College, 

^ On Letts' s Diary. 

- Sir William Hunter has pointed out that the tombstone says 
Richmond Thackeray died on September 13, 1815, aged thirty-two 
years, ten months, and twenty-three days, which would make the birth- 
day October 21, 1782, instead of September i, 1781, as stated in the 
Family Book of the Thackerays. 

and soon, as a reward for proficiency in Arabic and 
Persian, was appointed Collector of Midnapur. He 
was removed to Birbhum in 1803, three years after was 
appointed Judge of Ramgarh, and in 1807 was pro- 
moted to be Secretary of the Bengal Board of Revenue. 
From this time forth, with the exception of some 
months during which he acted as Judge of Midnapur, 
he remained in the capital, where, by virtue of his 
personal charm and his artistic and musical tastes, he 
became a noted personage in the little social world 
that flourished there. 

At Calcutta Richmond met, fell in love with, and 
married on October 13, 1810, one of the reigning 
beauties, Anne Becher, descended from an old Bengal 
civilian family, of whom, perhaps, the most distin- 
guished member was Richard Becher, who held high 
office when Clive ruled India.^ In the following 
December Richmond was promoted to be Collector of 
the Twenty-four Parganas, one of the prizes of the 
Bengal service, when he and his young wife moved 
to the official residence at Alipur, which was so close 
to the city as not to interfere with their social life. 
There, on July 18, 181 1, was born their only child, 
William Makepeace. 

^ Richard Becher retired in 1774, and returned to England, but seven 
years later lost his fortune in the endeavour to help a friend, whereupon 
the Court of Directors gave him a compassionate appointment as head 
of the Calcutta mint. But the blow was too much for him and he died, 
a disappointed old man, on November 17, 1782. "I wonder," says Sir 
William Hunter, " if Thackeray had that sad story of his mother's kins- 
man in mind when he touched off, with so tender a pathos, Colonel New- 
come's loss of fortune in old age." 


CHILDHOOD (1811-1822) 

Death of Richmond Thackeray — Thackeray and Richmond Shakespear 
sent to England, 1817 — Thackeray's recollection of India — his subse- 
quent acquaintance with Anglo-Indians — his mother's teachings — 
their affection for each other — her marriage with Major Carmichael- 
Smyth — Major and Mrs. Carmichael-Smyth return to England, 182 1 
— Thackeray's journey from India to England — he sees Napoleon at 
St. Helena — stays with his guardian, Peter Moore, at Hadley — and 
afterwards with Mrs. Becher at Fareham — goes to school at 
Southampton — his unhappiness there — sent to Dr. Turner's school at 
Chiswick — Walpole House and Miss Pinkerton's Academy. 

FOUR years after the birth of his son Richmond 
Thackeray died. His widow remained in 
India and kept the little boy with her until 
early in the year 1817, when she had to make 
the sacrifice exacted from all English parents resident 
in hot climates and send the boy to England. This 
was William Makepeace's first parting with his mother, 
and though he was but five years old, not the novelty 
of the voyage, nor the company of his cousin and play- 
mate, Richmond Shakespear, obliterated the memory 
of the last good-bye : so deep an impression did it make 
upon him, that more than two score years after he could 
still conjure up the moment of his departure. 

In one of the stories by the present writer, a man 
is described tottering *' up the steps of the ghaut," 
having just parted with his child, whom he is 
despatching to England from India. I wrote this, 



remembering in long, long distant days, such a 
ghaut, or river-stair, at Calcutta ; and a day when, 
down those steps, to a boat which was in waiting, 
came two children, whose mothers remained on the 
shore. One of these ladies was never to see her boy 
more. ^ 

The lad carried with him some dim impressions 
of the East, of a few people and some places. '*My 
native Gunga I remember quite well, and the sense of 
it as being quite friendly and beautiful," he told 
Whitwell Elwin; " but the Anglo-Indians who figure 
prominently in some of his novels were, of course, 
the outcome of his subsequent acquaintance with 
his many relations and friends, civilian and military, 
who had passed the greater portion of their lives in 
building up the British Empire in that vast southern 
peninsula. Thackeray met them and their kind at the 
Oriental Club in Hanover Square, and made no secret 
that he drew upon them for some of his characters. '* I 
see where you got your Colonel Newcome," said Mr. 
Fremantle Carmichael to the novelist one day. "To 
be sure you would," was the reply, ''only I had to 
Angelicise the old boys a little. "^ 

The principal memory Thackeray brought away from 
his birthplace was that of his beautiful, kindly mother, 
whose influence remained with him through life. His 
pride of birth and love of romance may have come to 
him, through his grandmother, Amelia Richmond 
Webb, from the Constables of Richmond and Lords of 

^ On Letts's Diary. The "story by the present writer" is " Philip " 
(chap, xxviii), the lady who died was Mrs. Shakespear. 

"^ Rev. Whitwell Elwin : "Thackeray's Boyhood" (Monthly Review, 
June, 1904, p. 162), 

' A. F. Baillie : The Oriental Club in Ha7wver Square. 


Burton, although the latter quality was also inherent in 
his uncle, Francis Thackeray, who delighted the family 
circle with improvised fairy tales ; his hatred of shams 
and snobbishness doubtless came to him direct from 
his distant paternal ancestors of the yeoman stock of 
Hampsthwaite ; and perhaps the later generations of 
the Thackerays, men who lived by their brain, built 
roads and administered justice in a distant land, and 
fought and died for their country, supplied the stronger 
fibres of his nature. From his father, it has been sug- 
gested, he may have inherited a love for luxury, as well 
as a taste for art and letters ; from his mother he learnt 
that reverence for womanhood and the incalculable value 
of love which was a distinguishing trait of his life and 
inspired many of the finest passages in his works, per- 
haps reaching its highest expression in the scene that 
closes with the death of Helen Pendennis. These 
principles that he drank in at his mother's knee, when 
he came to man's estate he was, indeed, never weary of 

Canst thou, O friendly reader, count upon the 
fidelity of an artless heart or two, and reckon among 
the blessings which Heaven hath bestowed upon thee 
the love of faithful women ? Purify thine own heart, 
and try to make it worthy of theirs. All the prizes 
of life are nothing compared to that one. All the 
rewards of ambition, wealth, pleasure, only vanity 
and disappointment grasped at greedily and fought 
for fiercely, and over and over again found worth- 
less by the weary winners. 

Thackeray loved his mother and was as proud of her 
as ever she was of him, and his only complaint was 
that she would always endeavour to make his friends 


realise that her son was "the divinest creature in the 
world." She was, her eldest grand-daughter has told 
us, a woman of "strong feeling, somewhat imperious, 
with a passionate love for little children, and with 
extraordinary sympathy and enthusiasm for anyone 
in trouble,"^ and, according to Herman Merivale, who 
knew her in her later years, she was one of the 
handsomest old ladies in the world, with great dark 
eyebrows and beautiful white hair.^ Thackeray, aged 
six, wrote little notes to his "dear Mama" in India, 
and, aged seven, begged her to return to Eng- 
land with Major Henry Carmichael-Smyth, of the 
Royal (Bengal) Engineers, whom she had recently 
married. Three years later, in 182 1, she came, to his 
great joy= "He had a perfect memory of me," Mrs. 
Carmichael-Smyth said, delighted to find him sturdy 
and tall for his age. " He could not speak, but kissed 
me again and again." Thackeray's relations with his 
mother were always intimate, and the only difference 
that ever arose between them was on religion, Mrs. 
Carmichael-Smyth belonging to the evangelical section 
of the Church. 

While at Charterhouse Thackeray wrote to her 
regularly ; and from Cambridge and during his con- 
tinental rambles he never failed to send long letters, 
usually illustrated with amusing sketches. He named 
his eldest daughter Anne after her, and, when Major 
Carmichael-Smyth died, his house became her home. 
She outlived her famous son by a year, and was buried 
on Christmas Eve 1864, the first anniversary of his death. 

' Lady Ritchie : Chapters from Some Me7noirs, ■^. 15. 
2 Merivale and Marzials : Thackeray, p. 39. 


Thackeray has placed on record some of his earliest 
memories, dating so far back as his voyage from India. 

When I first saw England, she was in mourning 
for the young Princess Charlotte, the hope of the 
Empire. I came from India as a child, and our ship 
touched at an island (St. Helena) on the way home, 
where my black servant took me a long walk over 
rocks and hills until we reached a garden, where we 
saw a man walking. ''That is he," cried the black 
man: "that is Bonaparte! He eats three sheep 
every day, and all the children he can lay hands on." 
There were people in the British dominions besides 
that poor Calcutta serving-man, with an equal horror 
of the Corsican ogre. With the same childish 
attendant, I remember peeping through the colon- 
nade at Carlton House, and seeing the abode of the 
great Prince Regent. I can yet see the Guards 
pacing before the gates of the Palace. The palace ! 
What palace? The palace exists no more than the 
palace of Nebuchadnezzar. It is but a name now.^ 

From the above passage it is possible approximately 
to fix the date of the little boy's arrival in England : 
Princess Charlotte died on November 6, 18 17. He 
was taken at once to his guardian and great-uncle, 
Peter Moore, the husband of Sarah Richmond Webb 
(Amelia's sister). Lord of the Manor of Hadley, where 
there was an Anglo-Indian colony connected with the 
Thackerays. William Makepeace the first had settled 
there, and, after the death of her husband, Mrs. Harris 
established herself in her brother's neighbourhood, 
while subsequently another Thackeray became rector of 
the parish. Moore, however, was the great man there. 
In a few years he had made an ample fortune in India 
and at the age of thirty returned to England, where he 

^ The Four Georges — George the Third. 


threw himself into the political arena, sided with Burke 
and Sheridan against Warren Hastings, was returned 
as member of Parliament for Tewkesbury in 1796, and 
in 1803, after a contest that cost him ;^25,ooo, was 
elected at Coventry, which constituency he represented 
through six parliaments. He became known as a most 
adroit manager of private bills ; but unfortunately he 
was careless as to the financial stability of the com- 
panies to which he gave the support of his name, and, 
when in 1825 there was a general collapse of the 
properties with which he was associated, he had to fly 
to Dieppe to escape arrest. He was, however, an 
honest man ; gave up nearly all his property to the 
creditors of the various ventures ; and died, **a broken 
exile," at Abbeville, on May 5, 1828, aged seventy-five. 
Moore was kind to his ward, whose impressions of him 
were tender ; and doubtless the sudden transformation 
of the wealthy and influential Member of Parliament 
into the unhappy bankrupt old man, occurring at an 
age when a lad is susceptible, supplied some touches 
to the narrative of the last days of Colonel Newcome, 
and provided the future novelist's first acquaintance 


the old old tale 

Of Folly, Fortune, Glory, Ruin. 

When Thackeray was not at Hadley he stayed at 
Fareham in Hampshire in the care of his mother's 
grandmother and aunt — "Aunt Becher," Lady Ritchie 
says she called the latter, *' but her other name I do 
believe was Miss Martha Honeyman." The contrast 
between the splendour of the Hadley mansion and the 
simplicity of the house in the Fareham High Street 


must have impressed itself on the observant lad, who 
began early in life to store up a mass of material 
which he was subsequently to turn to such excellent 
use ; but he was as happy in one place as the other, 
and of the humbler home in the small Cranford-like 
town he has left a pretty picture. 

She was eighty years of age then. A most lovely 
and picturesque old lady, with a long tortoiseshell 
cane, with a little puff, or tour^ of snow-white (or 
was it powdered?) hair under her cap, with the 
prettiest little black velvet slippers and high heels 
you ever saw. She had a grandson, a lieutenant in 
the navy ; son of her son, a captain in the navy ; 
grandson of her husband, a captain in the navy. She 
lived for scores and scores of years in a dear little old 
Hampshire town inhabited by the wives, widows, 
daughters of navy captains, admirals, lieutenants.^ 

The lad had little to complain of until his education 
began, when his lot was unfortunate. He was sent first 
to a small school at Southampton. 

We Indian children [i.e. Richmond Shakespear 
and himself] were consigned to a school of which our 
deluded parents had heard a favourable report, but 
which was governed by a horrible little tyrant, who 
made our young lives so miserable that I remember 
kneeling by my little bed of a night, and saying, 
'' Pray God, I may dream of my mother. "^ 

How he hated the place, and how miserable he was 
there, he never forgot to the end of his days, and more 
than once towards the end of his life he wrote of it. 

That first night at school — hard bed, hard words, 
strange boys bullying, and laughing, and jarring 
you with their hateful merriment — as for the first 
night at a strange school, we most of us remember 
what that is. And the first is not the worst, my boys, 

1 0}i a Peal of Bells. » On Lett^s Diary, 


there's the rub.^ . . . What a dreadful place that 
private school was ; cold, chilblains, bad dinners, 
not enough victuals, and caning awful I^ 

He was soon taken from this place and sent to a school 
at Chiswick, kept by a Dr. Turner, a distant relative. 
From there at the instigation of his aunt, Mrs. Ritchie, 
who lived close by, he might write to his mother that 
he was happy because ''there are so many good boys 
to play with " ; but, as a matter of fact, so miserable 
was the sensitive little man that he made an attempt 
to run away, and, in later days, when driving to 
Richmond, would point to that end of Chiswick Lane 
which abuts on the wide road to Hammersmith where, 
frightened, he turned back, fortunately to arrive at the 
house without his absence being noted. The school 
occupied the historic Walpole House, on Chiswick 
Mall, and figured subsequently as Miss Pinkerton's 
Academy in "Vanity Fair." An illustration at the end 
of the first chapter of that novel shows the fine iron 
gates of the Academy, and, just outside, a coach, with 
Sambo of the bandy legs hanging on behind, taking 
away Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley, and, while little 
Laura Martin (who was just in roundhand) is weeping 
because her dear Amelia is leaving. Miss Sharp, her 
pale face thrust out of the carriage window, is throwing 
back the copy of Johnson's Dixonary which good- 
hearted Miss Jemima has just given her. ''So much for 
the Dixonary," she exclaimed. "Thank God, I'm out 
of Chiswick." Doubtless, when in 182 1 little William 
Makepeace left Dr. Turner's, his feeling was much the 

' On Two Childreti in Black. - On Being Found Out. 

UAI.rul.K, Clll^WlCK .MALI, 



Thackeray goes to the Charterhouse, 1822 — Dr. John Russell — Dr, 
Russell portrayed in "Pendennis" — Thackeray unhappy at the 
Charterhouse — at the Rev. Edward Penny's house in Wilderness Row 
— becomes a day-boy and lives at Mrs. Boyes's — his studies — his 
schoolfellows — his love of reading, and especially of novel-reading — 
first attempts to write — his earliest verses — his passion for carica- 
ture — description of him as a schoolboy — his nose broken in a fight 
— he creates "Grey Friars" — visits his old school — Thackeray the 
great apostle of "tipping" — the Poor Brethren of the Charterhouse 
— a prototype of Colonel Newcome — Thackeray's description of Grey 
Friars in "The Newcomes." 

jA FTER four years' preliminary training Thack- 

/^L eray, at the age of ten, was sent in 1822 

/ ^ to Charterhouse School. It was an unpro- 

pitious time for a small boy to enter that 

great seminary, for just then the head master, Dr. John 

Russell,^ was introducing the '* Madras" or ''Bell" 

system, under which a school, to a great extent, teaches 

itself, the lower forms being taught by prcepositi— hoys 

of a form just below the Sixth (or, as Russell called it, 

the First), which bore the name of the Emeriti. It was 

found possible under this system to run the school with 

only seven assistant-masters, and the saving effected 

by the reduction of the teaching staff was so consider- 

^ John Russell (1787-1863), head master of Charterhouse i8ii«-i832 ; 
then Rector of St. Botolph's, Bishopsgate, until his death. 


able that the Governors materially reduced the fees, 
which resulted in a rush of parents anxious to obtain 
for their sons the advantages of a first-class school at 
small expense. Far more boys were taken than could 
be comfortably accommodated, and the class-rooms 
and the boarding-houses kept by masters were over- 

Russell, whom Thackeray nicknamed "Rude Boreas" 
and compared to a hungry lion, was not noted for 
suaveness of manner, and at his first interview with 
the new boy did not make a favourable impression. 
''Take that boy and his box to the matron," he thun- 
dered in his big brassy voice to the school janitor, as 
hough sentencing a culprit for execution, ''and make 
my compliments to the junior master and tell him the 
boy knows nothing and will just do for the lowest 
form." This was not a pleasant introduction to public- 
school life for a timid lad of tender years, but there 
was worse to come, for Russell would address lengthy 
and vigorous rebukes to any boy who blundered — a 
habit which subsequently Thackeray, who had suffered 
from it, satirised most delightfully. 

Pendennis, sir, your idleness is incorrigible, and 
your stupidity beyond example. You are a disgrace 
to your school, and to your family, and I have no 
doubt will prove so in after-life to your country. 
If that vice, sir, which is described to us as the root 
of all evil, be really what moralists have represented 
(and I have no doubt of the correctness of their 
opinion), for what a prodigious quantity of future 
crime and wickedness are you, unhappy boy, laying 
the seed ! Miserable trifler ! A boy who construes 
Se and instead of oe but at sixteen years of age is 
guilty not merely of folly, and ignorance, and dul- 



J-'roiii a hiisi Ity J. Devile, circa iS.'J 

i828] DR. JOHN RUSSELL 23 

ness inconceivable, but of crime, of deadly crime, 
of filial ingratitude, which I tremble to contemplate. 
A boy, sir, who does not learn his Greek play cheats 
the parent who spends money for his education. 
A boy who cheats his parent is not very far from 
robbing or forging upon his neighbour. A man 
who forges on his neighbour pays the penalty of his 
crime on the gallows. And it is not such a one that 
I pity (for he will be deservedly cut off), but his 
maddened and heart-broken parents, who are driven 
to a premature grave by his crimes, or, if they live, 
drag on a wretched and dishonoured old age. Go 
on, sir, and I warn you that the very next mistake 
that you make shall subject you to the punishment 
of the rod.^ 

At first terrified by these admonitions, Thackeray 
after a while, like the rest of the school, came to bear 
them more calmly ; but before he arrived at that happy 
state, when thus addressed before his class, he was 
miserable : shy and retiring, his nature was outraged 
by such verbal castigations ; and when Russell employed 
the weapon of ridicule, he had hard work to hold back 
his tears. 

Do not laugh at him writhing, and cause all the 
other boys to laugh. Remember your own young 
days at school, my friend — the tingling cheeks, burn- 
ing ears, bursting heart, and passion of desperate 
tears, with which you looked up, after having per- 
formed some blunder, whilst the doctor held you up 
to public scorn before the class, and cracked his great 
clumsy jokes upon you, helpless, and a prisoner ! 
Better the block itself, and the lictors, with their 
fasces of birch-twigs, than the maddening torture 
of those jokes ! - 

^ Pendennis, chap. ii. 
' Thorns i?i the Cushion. 


It must not, however, be thought that Thackeray was 
systematically ill-treated, for the Doctor, whose bark 
was much worse than his bite, though unsympathetic, 
pompous, and stern, was just according to his lights : 
none the less the lad, especially during his first years 
at the Charterhouse, was far from happy, and, indeed, 
the school at that time was a rough training-ground. 
Who, looking back, cannot remember in his school- 
days instances of injustice caused by a master's care- 
lessness or ignorance, and recall the deep sense of 
injury aroused by what in reality was the most trifling 
incident? That Thackeray never forgot these early 
troubles is clear from many passages in his works 
and from the fact that, in one of the last years of his 
life, he gladly commissioned Mr. Frederick Gale to 
write for the Cornhill Magazine an article on ''The 
Wrongs of My Boyhood,"^ showing how unjust mas- 
ters were and how they misunderstood boys. 

When Thackeray first went to Charterhouse he was 
placed in the care of the Rev. Edward Penny, whose 
house in Wilderness Row, Clerkenwell Road (from 
which a tunnel ran into the school grounds), still 
stands, and now boasts a tablet bearing in rudely cut 
letters the inscription : 


lived here 

There he was wretched, and certainly little considera- 
tion was shown by this assistant master for the deli- 
cately nurtured lads in his custody : 

1 Vol. Ill, pp. 95-103. 


//■//(■r,- riinckcrny Ih'i'd ivlu'ii he ivas JJj-st at tin- Clmrterhousc 

i82S] AT MRS. BOYES'S 25 

We were fifty boys in our boarding-house, and 
had to wash in a leaden trough, under a cistern, with 
lumps of fat, yellow soap floating about in the ice 
and water. 

Thackeray left Penny's to become a day-boy, when 
he stayed with Mrs. Boyes, who lived in Charterhouse 
Square, and took in lads belonging to Charterhouse 
and Merchant Taylors. Here he was less discontented, 
though it seems that the lady was of a hasty temper. 
To the last, however. Charterhouse was uncongenial 
to Thackeray, and even when he was seventeen years 
old, and second monitor in Day-boys, he found cause 
for bitter complaint. 

If the boy found the master devoid of sympathy, 
there can be no doubt the master had reason to con- 
sider the boy a not very satisfactory pupil. Placed 
originally in the Tenth Form, in 1823 he was in the 
Seventh, in the next year in the Sixth, and in 1825 in 
the Third ;i while the Blue Book of May 1826 shows 
him in the Second, and that of the following May in 
the First Form. He seems to have jumped the Emeriti^ 
the qualification for which was an intimate acquaint- 
ance with Horace. His rapid rise, however, may be 

' Among his schoolfellows in 1825 were Edmund Lushington, captain 
of the school ; Francis Edgworth and Charles Freshwater, monitors ; 
G. S. Venables, Richard Venables, John Murray, and Martin Tupper, 
in the First Form ; Ralph Bernal (afterwards Bernal-Osborne), Paken- 
ham Edgworth, Francis Beaumont, and John Stewart Horner in the 
Second ; in the Third, besides Thackeray himself, James Reynolds 
Young ; and in the Fourth, Henry George Liddell. Henry Ray Fresh- 
water was in the Seventh ; Richmond Shakespear and Alfred Gatty in 
the Eighth ; and in the Twelfth, just entering the school, John Leech 
and Alfred Montgomery. Other contemporaries were George Shake- 
spear, George Lock, Robert Curzon, J, F. Boyes, Eubank, Came, 
Stoddart, Garden, and Poynter. 


attributed rather to the fact that in 1826 and the follow- 
ing year the school ran down in numbers than to his 
scholastic attainments. Euclid, we are told, was easy 
to him, though he made little progress in algebra ; 
but, from the pedagogical point of view, his most 
serious defect was inaptitude for the study of the 
classics, and doubtless it was the difficulty he experi- 
enced in his efforts to write Latin hexameters and 
construe Greek that aroused Dr. Russell's ire and em- 
bittered the lad's stay at Charterhouse. 

I always had my doubts about the classics. When 
I saw a brute of a schoolmaster, whose mind was as 
coarse-grained as any ploughboy's in Christendom ; 
whose manners were those of the most insufferable 
of Heaven's creatures, the English snob trying to 
turn gentleman ; whose lips, when they were not 
mouthing Greek or grammar, were yelling out the 
most brutal abuse of poor little cowering gentlemen 
standing before him : when I saw this kind of man 
(and the instructors of youth are selected very fre- 
quently indeed out of this favoured class) and heard 
him roar out praises, and pump himself into enthusi- 
asm for, certain Greek poetry, — I say I had my doubts 
about the genuineness of the article. A man will 
thump you or call you names because you won't 
learn — but I could never take to the proffered deli- 
cacy ; the fingers that offered it were so dirty. Fancy 
the brutality of a man who began a Greek grammar 
with, " ti'ttto), I thrash!" We were all made to 
begin it in that way.^ 

After reading this reminiscence it is not surprising 
to find that all Thackeray's contemporaries are agreed 
that he had no school industry : Dean Liddell (whom 
the novelist subsequently accused of having ruined 

1 Punch in the East, III. 

1828] HIS STUDIES 27 

his chance of scholarship by doing his verses) thought 
he was very lazy in school-work;^ and J. F. Boyes, 
another comrade, has put it on record that, " No one in 
those early days could have believed that there was 
much work in him, or that he would ever rise to the 
top of any tree by climbing." ^ With the exception of 
Horace, whom he came to love, Thackeray was never 
intimately acquainted with any Latin or Greek author, 
and it may be doubted if, after he left Cambridge, 
he ever read their works. His style was moulded, 
not upon these ancient writers, but upon the great 
English classics of the eighteenth century, and 
especially upon Fielding, Steele (for whom and for 
Addison he had great regard as old Carthusians), 
Goldsmith, and Sterne, while in many passages of 
'* Esmond" may be discerned a memory of Addison's 
stately prose. *' My English would have been much 
better," he said, *'if I had read Fielding before I was 

Thackeray, in after-life, was under no illusion as to 
his lack of distinction at Charterhouse. 

I was not a brilliant boy at school — the only 
prize I ever remember to have got was in a kind of 
lottery in which I was obliged to subscribe with 
seventeen other competitors — and of which the prize 
was a flogging. That I won. But I don't think I 
carried off any other. Possibly from laziness, or if 
you please from incapacity, but I certainly was rather 
inclined to be on the side of the dunces.^ 

This account of himself at an early age he put into 

^ G. S. Davies : Thackeray at Charterhouse. 
"^ A Memorial of Thackeray s Schooldays. 
^ Punch in the East, III. 


the mouth of the '*Fat Contributor," and, not long 
after, in the novel of " Pendennis," he gave an ex- 
cellent description of himself in his schooldays.^ 

Reading was the boy's great solace, and he was 
never so happy, in these days, whether at school or in 
the holidays, as when he had a book in his hand : 
like Arthur Pendennis, he '* had a natural taste for 
every book which did not fall into his school course." 
Even in later life, when he had too many calls on his 
time and too much strain on his mind to permit any 
great indulgence in this direction, he cherished the 
intention, when he could afford it, to retire into the 
country, and, ending as he began, to feast upon books. 
Works of fiction were his great delight.^ << Novels 
are sweets : all people with healthy literary appetites 
love them — almost all women, — and a vast number of 
clever, hard-headed men," he declared forty years 
later ; and in his youth he liked ** novels without love 
or talking or any of that nonsense, but containing 
plenty of fighting, escaping, robbing and rescuing."^ 

As some bells in a church hard by are making a 
great holiday clanging in the summer afternoon, I 
am reminded somehow of a July day, a garden, and 
a great clanging of bells years and years ago, on the 
very day when George IV was crowned (July 19, 
182 1 ). I remember a little boy, lying in that garden, 
reading his first novel. It was called " The Scottish 

^ Pendennis, chap. ii. See the passage beginning, "Arthur Pen- 
dennis's schoolfellows at the Grey Friars school state that, as a boy, 
he . . ." 

- Whitwell Elwin : Thackeray's Boyhood. 

^ On a Lazy Idle Boy, 

* On a Peal of Bells. 

i828] LOVE OF NOVELS 29 

That was before he went to Charterhouse, but the 
taste remained, and many an hour that should have 
been devoted to study was occupied by the surrep- 
titious reading of works of fiction. 

What is that I see? A boy,— a boy in a jacket. 
He is at a desk ; he has great books before him — 
Latin and Greek books and dictionaries. Yes, but 
behind the great books, which he pretends to read, 
is a little one, with pictures, which he is really reading. 
It is — yes, I can read it now — it is "The Heart of 
Midlothian," by the author of ''Waverley" — or, no, it 
is "Life in London, or. The Adventures of Corinthian 
Tom, Jeremiah Hawthorn, and their friend Bob 
Logic," by Pierce Egan ; and it has pictures — oh, 
such funny pictures ! As he reads there comes 
behind the boy a man, a dervish, in a black gown, 
like a woman, and a black square cap, and he has 
a book in each hand, and he seizes the boy who is 
reading the picture-book, and lays his head upon 
one of his books, and smacks it with the other. 
The boy makes faces, and so that picture dis- 

Those happy hours spent over entrancing fiction he 
was never tired of recalling, and in later days even as 
he groaned over the lost illusions of the pantomime, 
so he sighed over the never-to-be-repeated raptures 
derived from those novels of a bygone age that no 
longer had the power to charm the more sophisticated 
reader of mature age. 

Yonder comes a footman with a bundle of novels 
from the library. Are they as good as our novels? 
Oh ! how delightful they were ! Shades of Valan- 
cour, awful ghost of Manfroni, how I shudder at 
your appearance ! Sweet image of Thaddeus of 

^ De Juventute. 


Warsaw, how often has this almost infantile hand 
tried to depict you in a Polish cap and richly em- 
broidered tights I And as for the Corinthian Tom 
in the light blue pantaloons and Hessians, and Jerry 
Hawthorn from the country, can all the fashion, 
can all the splendour of real life which these eyes 
have subsequently beheld, can all the wit I have heard 
or read in later times, compare with your fashion, 
with your b illiancy, with your delightful grace, 
and sparkling vivacious rattle ? . . . (My eyes) are 
looking backwards, back into forty years off, into a 
dark room, into a little house hard by on the Common 
here, in the Bartlemy-tide holidays. The parents 
have gone to town for two days : the house is all his 
own, his own and a grim old maid-servant's, and a 
little boy is seated at night in the lonely drawing- 
room — poring over " Manfroni, or, The One-handed 
Monk," so frightened that he scarce dares to turn 
round. ^ 

From intense admiration of books to the desire to 
write is in many cases but a step, and Thackeray, 
though not precocious, felt from an early age a call to 
authorship. From the first he found no difficulty in 
expressing himself on paper. " I always feel as if I 
were at home when I am writing," he said, in excuse 
for his many lengthy letters to his mother ; and later 
he took the same fond relative into his confidence in 
the matter of his ambitious longings. "I have not 
yet drawn out a plan for my stories, but certain germs 
thereof are yet budding in my mind which I hope by 
assiduous application will flourish yet and bring forth 
fruit." How like is that to the maturer Thackeray, 
who always dreamt of assiduous application and so 
rarely succeeded in drawing out a plan for his stories ! 

^ Tunhridge Toys. 


Oh, for a half-holiday, and a quiet corner, and one 
of those books again ! Those books and perhaps 
those eyes with which we read them ; and, it may be, 
the brains behind the eyes ! It may be the tart was 
good ; but how fresh the appetite was ! If the gods 
would give me the desire of my heart, I should be 
able to write a story which boys would relish for 
the next few dozen of centuries.^ 

There was nothing remarkable in this wish, which 
has been indulged in by many thousand lads before 
and since, but the vast majority have soon outgrown 
their desire, and become soldiers, merchants, sailors, 
clerks, shopkeepers, or followers of the score of other 
professions or trades. What is distinctive is that in 
this one case the boy realised his youthful ideal. 

Though we have it on the authority of Mr. Boyes 
that in his schooldays Thackeray's idea was the serious 
and sublime, and that he spoke "in terms of homage 
to the genius of Keats that he would not have vouch- 
safed to the whole tribe of humorists," his first efforts 
as a juvenile author were humorous. Indeed, among 
his friends he became known by the ease with which he 
wrote verses and parodies, and his first known effort 
has been preserved. 



Violets ! deep blue violets ! Cabbages ! bright green cabbages ! 

April's loveliest coronets : April's loveliest gifts, I guess, 

There are no flowers grown in the There is not a plant in the garden 

vale, laid, 

Kissed by the sun, woo'd by the Raised by the dung, dug by the 

gale, spade, 

' De Juventute. 


None with the dew of the twilight None by the gardener watered^ I 

wet, ween, 

So sweet as the deep blue violet. So sweet as the cabbage, the cab- 

bage green, 

I do remember how sweet a breath I do remember how sweet a smell 

Came with the azure light of a Came with the cabbage I loved so 

wreath, well, 

That hung round the wild harp's Served up with the beef that beau- 
golden chords, tiful looked. 

That rang to my dark-eyed lover's The beef that dark-eyed Ellen 

words, cooked. 

I have seen that dear harp rolled I have seen beef served with radish 

With gems of the East and bands of horse, 

of gold, I have seen beef served with lettice 

But it never was sweeter than of cos, 

when set But it is far nicer, far nicer, I 

With leaves of the dark blue violet. guess, 

As bubble and squeak, beef and 

And when the grave shall open for And when the dinner-bell sounds 

me — for me — 

I care not how soon that time may I care not how soon that time may 

be — be — 

Never a rose shall bloom on my Carrots shall never be served on 

tomb, my cloth. 

It breathes too much of hope and They are far too sweet for a boy of 

bloom ; my broth ; 

But let me have there the meek But let me have there a mighty 

regret mess 

Of the bending and deep blue vio- Of smoking hot beef and cabbages. 


These verses are noteworthy only as showing the 
boy's keen eye for the ridiculous and his natural anti- 
pathy to mawkish sentimentality ; but they are interest- 
ing as the first fruits of the gift that was later to 
produce the amusing lampoon on Lytton and to cul- 
minate in the admirable '' Novels by Eminent Hands." 
*' Cabbages" was thought very witty by the Carthusians, 
who encouraged the author to further efforts, of which 


the most amusing was, by Anthony Trollope, ''found 
hanging in the memory of an old friend, the serious 
nature of whose literary labours would certainly have 
driven such lines from his mind, had they not at the 
time caught fast hold of him."^ 

In the romantic little town of Highbury 

My father kept a circulatin' library ; 

He followed in his youth that man immortal, who 

Conquered the Frenchmen on the plains of Waterloo. 

Mamma was an inhabitant of Drogheda, 

Very good to darn and to embroider. 

In the famous island of Jamaica, 

For thirty years I've been a sugar-baker ; 

And here I sit, the Muses' 'appy vot'ry, 

A cultivatin' every kind of po'try. 

This is more suggestive of the maturer Thackeray in 
frolicsome moments, with his liking for those disgrace- 
ful rhymes of which, so far from being ashamed, he 
was inordinately proud ; and in the easy flow of these 
doggerel lines a discerning reader may, perhaps, detect 
the mettle that was to produce the astonishing descrip- 
tion of the famous White Squall in the account of 
the "Journey from Cornhill to Grand Cairo." 

If Thackeray found delight in parody, his supreme 
joy in those days was caricature, and his sketches, if 
they did not extort praise from the masters, gave him 
an enviable fame among his fellows. 

O Scottish Chiefs, didn't we weep over you ! O 
mysteries of Udolpho, didn't I and Briggs Minor 
draw pictures out of you. . . . Efforts feeble, indeed, 
but still giving pleasure to ourselves and our friends. 

^ Anthony Trollope : Thackeray, p. 32. 
I.— D 


"I say, old boy, draw us Vivaldi tortured in the 
Inquisition," or ''Draw us Don Quixote and the 
windmills," amateurs would say, to boys who had a 
love of drawing.^ 

As a child he began to draw, and one of his first 
letters to his mother contained an attempt at a pen-and- 
ink portrait of Major Carmichael-Smyth, to whom she 
was then engaged. " His drawings are wonderful," 
said his proud parent. At the Charterhouse he orna- 
mented the leaves of his class-books with satirical 
pictures of his masters and schoolfellows, and he 
embellished with burlesque illustrations his copies of 
''Don Quixote," "The Castle of Otranto," "Robin- 
son Crusoe," "Joseph Andrews," and many other 

A lad who does not place games above everything in 
the world, and prefers a book to a ball, is looked at 
askance in all English public schools ; and Thackeray 
cannot have been popular till he showed himself pos- 
sessed of qualities that compensated, or almost com- 
pensated, for these defects. It has already been said 
that his powers of caricature attracted the respectful 
admiration of his schoolfellows, which was not lessened 
when it was found that the volumes over which he 
pored provided him with tales to narrate in the dormi- 
tory. These accomplishments apart, he was very like 
other boys. Like all lads worth their salt, he was a 

^ De Juventute. Many of the drawings done at the Charterhouse have 
been reproduced in " Thackerayana," edited by Joseph Grego (1875). 
"Vivaldi" was evidently a favourite subject with Thackeray, for there 
are two sets of sketches, one reproduced by Lady Ritchie in the bio- 
graphical edition of her father's works (Vol. xiii), the other by the 
present writer in the Co?moisseur (January 1904). 


hero-worshipper, and bowed down before the cock of 
the school. *'I have never seen the man since, but 
still think of him as of something awful, gigantic, mys- 
terious " ; ^ he was good-tempered and sociable, full of 
fun, and possessed of the redeeming virtue of an in- 
ordinate love of ''tuck": it was one of the humorous 
laments of his later days that confectioners were not 
what they were when he was a lad. 

They say that claret is better now-a-days, and 
cookery much improved since the days of my 
monarch — of George IV. Pastry Cookery is certainly 
not so good. I have often eaten half-a-crown's worth 
(including, I trust, ginger-beer) at our school pastry- 
cook's, and that is a proof that the pastry must have 
been very good, for could I do as much now? I 
passed by the pastrycook's shop lately, having occa- 
sion to visit my old school. It looked a dingy old 
baker's ; misfortunes may have come over him — 
those penny tarts certainly did not look so nice as I 
remember them : but he may have grown careless as 
he has grown old (I should judge him to be now 
about 96 years of age), and his hand may have lost 
its cunning.2 

Thackeray found pleasure in other schoolboy de- 
lights, took part in amateur theatricals — the play was 
the now long-forgotten " Bombastes Furioso" — and 
joined in the debates. " We are going to have a debate 
to-morrow night on the expediency of a standing 
army," he wrote to his mother in February 1828. 
" We have not yet settled the sides we shall take."^ He 
must have been present at the great fight between the 

^ Men^s Wives: Mr, and Mrs. Frank Berry, chap. i. 

^ De Juventute. 

* Merivale and Marzials : Thackeray, p. 45. 


prototypes of Berry and Biggs, narrated with much 
detail in " Mr. and Mrs. Frank Berry," when, after the 
hundred-and-second round, the latter could not come up 
to time ; and no doubt he witnessed the severe punish- 
ment inflicted upon Reginald Cuff by "Dobbin of 
Ours," the full particulars of which all may read in 
the fifth chapter of ''Vanity Fair." He even himself 
indulged in a bout — with dire results. George Stovin 
Venables, when they were both boarders at Penny's, 
goaded him into combat, and unhappily broke his nose. 
The nose was reset, and then deliberately rebroken 
by a brutal school bully. " I got at last big enough 
and strong enough," Thackeray told his friend Boyes, 
the son of the lady with whom he lived, "to give the 
ruffian the soundest thrashing a boy ever had."^ 

Thackeray once referred to his schooldays as 
"years of infernal misery, tyranny, and annoyance," 
but time naturally softened his feelings towards the 
Charterhouse, and although he avenged himself on 
Dr. Russell by pillorying him as Dr. Birch and Dr. 
Swishtail, in the days of his prosperity he regarded 
his old seminary without malice, and the "Slaughter 
House School, near Smithfield, London," of "Men's 
Wives" became the " Grey Friars " of "The New- 
comes." Probably Mr. Whibley is right, however, in 
asserting that Thackeray did not love the Charter- 
house until he had created it for himself,- though this, 
of course, never occurred to the great man. 

To others than Cistercians, Grey Friars is a 
dreary place possibly. Nevertheless, the pupils 

1 J. F. Boyes : A Memorial of Thackeray's Schooldays. 
^ WilliaTn Makepeace Thackeray, p. 6. 


educated there love to revisit it ; and the oldest of 
us grow young again for an hour or two as we come 
back into these scenes of childhood. ^ . . . Men 
revisit the old school, though hateful to them, with 
ever so much kindness and sentimental affection. 
There was the tree, under which the bully licked 
you : here the ground where you had to fag out on 
holidays and so forth. . . . - 

Thackeray left the Charterhouse on April 16, 1828, 
but he revisited it frequently, and a recollection of the 
first time he went there not as a pupil probably in- 
spired a description of a similar event in the lives of 
Arthur Pendennis and Harry Foker, who renewed 
acquaintance with some of their old comrades there. 

The bell for afternoon-school rang as they were 
swaggering about the play-ground talking to their 
old cronies. The awful Doctor passed into school 
with his grammar in his hand. Foker slunk away 
uneasily at his presence, but Pen went up blushing 
and shook the dignitary by the hand. He laughed 
as he thought that well-remembered Latin Grammar 
had boxed his ears many a time.^ 

Thackeray must have received a hearty welcome 
from the boys there as elsewhere, for he was the great 
apostle of tipping, and always filled his pockets before 
paying such a visit. An old Carthusian who once 
accompanied him has related how Thackeray tipped 
the first lad he met with a sovereign, proceeded to 
empty purse and pocket in tips for the other boys, and, 
his resources temporarily exhausted, borrowed every 
coin his companion had about him, and distributed 

^ The Nevjco^nes, chap. Ixxv. 

"^ On a Joke I once heard from the late Thomas Hood. 

' Pendennis, chap, xviii. 


these too, with the result that, not having the cab-fare 
left, the two "old boys" had to walk home. Thackeray 
could never see a boy without wanting to tip him, and 
there can scarcely have been a lad of his acquaintance 
who did not profit by his good-nature. On Founder's 
Day at Charterhouse he would single out a name from 
the gown-boys' list. *' Here's the son of dear old So- 
and-so," he would say. " Let's go and tip him." "He 
had a particular delight in boys, and an excellent way 
with them," Dickens has recorded. " I remember his 
once asking me with fantastic gravity, when he had 
been to Eton where my eldest boy was, whether I felt as 
he did in regard of never seeing a boy without want- 
ing instantly to give him a sovereign."^ Arguments 
against tipping met with short shrift from Thackeray. 

Ah, my dear sir ! if you have any little friends at 
school, go and see them, and do the natural thing by 
them. Don't fancy they are too old — try 'em. And 
they will remember you, and bless you in future days ; 
and their gratitude shall accompany your dreary after- 
life, and they shall meet you kindly when thanks for 
kindness are scant. Oh, mercy ! shall I ever forget 
the sovereign you gave me. Captain Bob. . . It is all 
very well, my dear sir, to say that boys contract habits 
of expecting tips from their parents' friends, that they 
become avaricious and so forth. Avaricious ! fudge ! 
Boys contract habits of tart and toffee-eating which 
they do not carry into after-life. On the contrary, I 
wish I did like 'em. What rapture of pleasure one 
could have now for five-shillings, if one could but 
pick it off the pastrycook's tray ! No. If you have 
any little friends at school, out with your half-crowns, 
my friend, and impart to those little ones the fleeting 
joys of their age.^ 

^ Charles Dickens : In Memoriam {Cornhill Magazine, July 1864). 
^ Tunbridge Toys. 


Though Charterhouse figures prominently in several 
of Thackeray's books, and though he sent to that estab- 
lishment young Rawdon Crawley, George Osborne and 
his son, Arthur Pendennis, Philip Ringwood, Colonel 
Newcome and Clive, Philip Firmin, and many other 
lads of his creation, Thackeray earned the title of 
Carthusianiis Carthusianorurn, not for his mention of 
the school, but for the immortal picture of the Poor 
Brethren. A thoughtful boy, the magic of the ancient 
monastery threw its spell over him, and many a time 
he must have contemplated with awe those venerable 
gentlemen in the cloak that is a survival of the old 
monastic garb of the Carthusians patrolling in the 
spacious quadrangles and beautiful lawns hemmed in 
by the quaint one-storied buildings, and have pondered 
on the sight of the few score veterans fallen upon evil 
days in their humble quiet lodging, a stone's-throw 
from the noisiest, busiest part of the noisiest, busiest 
city in the world. The present writer visited the place 
not long since, and was so fortunate as to be taken in 
hand by a mere stripling of sixty-one — he did not look 
a day more than fifty — who mentioned incidentally that 
he had come here to end his days. He stated this 
simply. He was making no bid for sympathy. He 
had lost his wife. He must have lost his money, too, 
else he would not have been eligible for nomination as 
a Pensioner in this home for ''gentlemen by descent 
and in poverty." Yet, though this is a pleasant, peace- 
ful retreat in which to wait until one enters the last 
Home, none the less, when the writer took leave of his 
newly acquired friend, there was a catching of his 
breath as he said "Good-bye" to his courteous host. 


How many tragedies, how many broken hearts, disap- 
pointed loves, shipwrecked careers, may be sheltered 
there ! If ever a man deserved well of his kind and 
has earned the meed of gentle thoughts after he has 
gone to another place, that man, surely, is Thomas 
Sutton, Fundator Noster^ who provided this retreat 
where the weary and unfortunate traveller through the 
maze of life may end his days in peace and comfort. 

*' I shall put all this in my book," Thackeray exclaimed 
while at the Charterhouse on Founder's Day, 1854 ; 
and early in the following year he asked John (after- 
wards Canon) Irvine, then at school there, to introduce 
him to a '' Codd " (a colloquial term for a Poor Brother) 
because ''Colonel Newcome is going to be a ' Codd.'" 
The lad took him to see Captain Light, an old soldier 
whom blindness and reduced circumstances had com- 
pelled to seek the shelter of the Hospital ; and who, 
after the novelist had been to see him, gleefully ex- 
claimed, '' I'm going to sit for Colonel Newcome." 

Who that has read will not gladly read again the 
novelist's account of the ancient institution that con- 
cludes with the description of the impressive ceremonies 
of Founder's Day, when the boys and the old black- 
gowned pensioners take their seats in thellighted chapel 
where '' Founder's Tomb, with its grotesque monsters, 
heraldries, darkles and shines with the most wonderful 
shadows and lights." 

We oldsters, be we ever so old, become boys again 
as we look at that familiar old tomb, and think how 
the seats are altered since we were here, and how the 
doctor — not the present doctor, the doctor of our 
time — used to sit yonder, and his awful eye used to 

i828] "CODD" NEWCOME 41 

frighten us shuddering boys, on whom it lighted ; and 
how the boy next us imuld kick our shins during 
service time, and how the monitor would cane us 
afterwards because our shins were kicked. Yonder 
sit forty cherry-cheeked boys, thinking about home 
and holidays to-morrow. Yonder sit some threescore 
old gentlemen pensioners of the hospital, listening to 
the prayers and the psalms. You hear them coughing 
feebly in the twilight — the old reverend blackgowns. 
Is Codd Ajax alive, you wonder? — the Cistercian lads 
called these old gentlemen Codds, I know not where- 
fore — I know not wherefore — but is old Codd Ajax 
alive, I wonder? or Codd Soldier? or kind old Codd 
Gentleman? or has the grave closed over them? A 
plenty of candles light up this chapel, and this scene 
of age and youth, and early memories, and pompous 
death. How solemn the well-remembered prayers 
are, here uttered again in the place where in child- 
hood we used to hear them ! How beautiful and 
decorous the rite ; how noble the ancient words of the 
supplications which the priest utters, and to which 
generations of fresh children and troops of bygone 
seniors have cried Amen ! under those arches.^ 

Who does not remember the pathetic scenes when 
*'Codd" Newcome took up his residence in that ancient 
foundation, those beautiful sad chapters that end with 
the death of this chevalier sans peiir et sans reproche: 

At the usual evening hour, the chapel bell began to 
toll, and Thomas Newcome's hands outside the bed 
feebly beat time. And just as the last bell struck, 
a peculiar sweet smile shone over his face, and he 
lifted up his head a little, and quickly said, ''Adsum ! " 
and fell back. It was the word we used at school, 
when names were called ; and lo ! he, whose heart 
was as that of a little child, had answered to his name, 
and stood in the presence of The Master.'^ 

^ The Newcomes, chap. Ixxxv. ^ Ibid., chap. Ixxx, 



Thackeray leaves the Charterhouse — stays with his mother and step- 
father at Larkbeare, Ottery St. Mary — prepares for Cambridge — 
Larkbeare and Ottery St. Mary in " Pendennis " — "Irish Melody" 
— Captain Costigan and Miss Fotheringay — at Cambridge — 
Thackeray's good intentions — his studies — his amusements— his 
views on history — and on Shelley — speech at the Union on Napoleon 
— assists in the formation of an Essay Club — contributes to the 
Stwb — " Tirabuctoo " — " Ramsbottom Papers" — his friendships — 
Richard Monckton Milnes — Rev. W. H. Brookfield and his wife — 
Edward FitzGerald — Alfred Tennyson, 

SHORTLY after his return from India Major 
Carmichael-Smyth was appointed Governor of 
the East India Company's military college at 
Addiscombe ; but in 1825 he retired from the 
service, and settled down as a gentleman-farmer at 
Larkbeare, which was situated on the confines of the 
parish of Ottery St. Mary, in the valley of the Otter, 
about eleven miles from Exeter. There Thackeray 
spent his holidays with his mother and stepfather, 
travelling by the Exeter coach, arriving in winter 
benumbed with cold ; and, because he regarded his 
school terms as bondage, anticipating the periods of 
temporary emancipation with even greater joy than the 
majority of his fellows. 

If you are paterfamilias, and a worthy kind gentle- 
man, no doubt you have marked down on your 


i828] AT LARKBEARE 43 

register, 17th December (say), ''Boys come home." 
Ah, how carefully that blessed day is marked in their 
little calendars ! In my time it used to be, — Wed- 
nesday, 13th November, "5 weeks from the holidays"; 
Wednesday, 20th November, '■'■ \ weeks from the holi- 
days " ; until sluggish time sped on, and we came to 
WEDNESDAY, i8th DECEMBER. O rapture I^ 

Happy were the days spent at Larkbeare, and none 
more pleasant than those duringwhich, the Charterhouse 
training ended, the young man prepared himself for 
Cambridge. From May 1828 until the following Feb- 
ruary Major Carmichael-Smyth coached him ; and 
perhaps with some prototype of Pendennis's tutor, 
Smirke, Thackeray ''galloped through the Iliad and the 
Odyssey, the tragic playwrights and the charming, 
wicked Aristophanes (whom he vowed to be the greatest 
poet of all)," and, doubtless, like the more brilliant 
Arthur Pendennis, 

he went at such a pace that, though he certainly 
galloped through a considerable extent of the ancient 
country, he clean forgot it in after-life, and had only 
such a vague remembrance of his early classic course 
as a man has in the House of Commons, let us say, 
who still keeps up two or three quotations ; or a re- 
viewer, who, just for decency's sake, hints at a little 

The months Thackeray spent at Larkbeare made 
their contribution to literature, for the neighbourhood 
was reproduced in "Pendennis," the most autobio- 
graphical of Thackeray's novels. There is in one of the 
sketches illustrating "Pendennis" an unmistakable 
representation of the clock-tower of the parish church 

^ On Letts' s Diary, ^ Pendennis, chap, iii. 


of Ottery St. Mary, and the local descriptions clearly 
identify Clavering St. Mary, Chatteris, and Baymouth, 
as Ottery St. Mary, Exeter, and Sidmouth, while 
Larkbeare figures as Fairoaks, although with a 
novelist's license, Thackeray placed Fairoaks close by 
Ottery, whereas Larkbeare was a mile and a half from 
the village. 

Looking at the little town from London Road, as it 
runs by the lodge at Fairoaks, and seeing the rapid 
and shiny Brawl (the Otter) winding down from the 
town, and skirting the woods of Clavering Park, and 
the ancient church tower and peaked roofs of the 
house rising up among trees and old walls, behind 
which swells a fair background of sunshiny hills that 
stretch from Clavering westward towards the sea, the 
place looks so cheery and comfortable that many a 
traveller's heart must have yearned towards it from 
the coach-top, and he must have thought that it was 
in such a calm, friendly nook he would like to shelter 
at the end of life's struggle.^ 

Dr. Cornish, the vicar of Ottery St. Mary, who was 
friendly with the lad, has remarked that "the charac- 
teristics of ' Pendennis ' found no counterpart in the 
inhabitants of the locality" ;" but most readers of the 
novel are reluctant to accept this statement. It is more 
pleasant to think that the Rev. F. Wapshot of Claver- 
ing may have had an original in some master of the 
old King's School ; and there is Thackeray's authority 
for the statement that Dr. Cornish furnished the model 
for Dr. Portman ; while the County Chronicle and 
Chatteris Champion, to which young Arthur Pendennis 
sent his verses to be printed in the poets' corner, must 

^ Pendennis, chap. ii. 

2 Short Notes on the Church and Parish of Ottery St. Mary. 

i83o] "IRISH MELODY" 45 

have been the paper published in Exeter under the 
splendid title of the Western Luminary, in which 
journal they first appeared in print. Unlike Pen- 
dennis, whose poems after he met the Fotheringay 
*' were no longer signed NEP by their artful composer, 
but subscribed EROS," Thackeray's only identified con- 
tribution was no love-song, but an unromantic parody 
of a speech, which Lalor Shell intended to deliver at 
Penenden on October 24, 1828, in favour of Roman 
Catholic Emancipation, but which, owing to the 
threatening attitude of the mob, he was unable to do : 
he had, however, sent copies of the prepared address 
to the newspapers, where they duly appeared the next 

(Air : The Minstrel Boy) 

Mister Shiel into Kent has gone 
On Penenden Heath you'll find him ; 

Nor think you that he came alone, 
There's Doctor Doyle behind him. 

" Men of Kent," said the little man, 

** If you hate Emancipation, 
You're a set of fools." He then began 

A cut and dry oration. 

He strove to speak, but the men of Kent 

Began a grievous shouting ; 
When out of the waggon the little man went, 

And put a stop to his spouting. 

'* What though these heretics heard me not ! " 

Quoth he to his friend Canonical, 
" My speech is safe in the Times, I wot, 

And eke in the Morning Chronicle.^'' 


The early chapters of ''Pendennis" are, indeed, so 
autobiographical that it is almost legitimate to wonder 
if the love-affairs therein so graphically described had 
not some basis in fact, and if Miss Costigan, known 
professionally as Miss Emily Fotheringay, had not 
her prototype in some member of the stock company 
at the old Exeter theatre. It has been suggested 
that the Fotheringay was a fancy portrait of the actress, 
Eliza O'Neill, who in 1819 married William Becher, 
then M.P. for Mallow and afterwards, on William IV's 
coronation, created a baronet. Dolphin, who by the 
offer of a London engagement, lured the Fotheringays 
from Baymouth, was drawn from the well-known 
theatrical manager, Alfred Bunn, whom Thackeray 
nearly a score of years before *'Pendennis" was written, 
had caricatured in "Flore et Zephyr" and lampooned 
in the National Standard. Certainly, Miss Fotherin- 
gay's father, the immortal Costigan, existed, though 
Thackeray did not meet him till years after he had 
evolved him out of his inner consciousness. 

In the novel of "Pendennis," written ten years ago, 
there is an account of a certain Costigan, whom I 
had invented (as I suppose authors invent their 
personages out of scraps, heel-taps, odds and ends 
of characters). I was smoking in a tavern parlour one 
night and this Costigan came into the room — alive 
— the very man : — the most remarkable resemblance 
of the printed sketches of the man, of the rude 
drawings in which I had depicted him. He had the 
same little coat, the same battered hat, cocked on 
one eye, the same twinkle in that eye. " Sir," said I, 
knowing him to be an old friend whom I had met in 
unknown regions, ''Sir," I said, ''may I offer you a 
glass of brandy-and-water ? " " Bedad, ye may,'' says 
he, ^^and Pll sing ye a song^ tuf Of course, he 

i83o] AT CAMBRIDGE 47 

spoke with an Irish brogue. Of course, he had been 
in the army. In ten minutes he pulled out an Army- 
Agent's account, whereon his name was written. A 
few months after we read of him in a police court.^ 

While *' Pendennis," as has been said, is frequently 
autobiographical, the chapters of that book which treat 
of its hero at the University must not be accepted as 
a guide to its author's life at Cambridge. Indeed, 
Thackeray was very careful to avoid even the sus- 
picion of personalities. Oxbridge is an obvious com- 
pound of Oxford and Cambridge, skip is a word 
manufactured from the Oxford scout and the Cambridge 
gyp, the river is the Camisis, and the descriptions 
of the colleges are deliberately confused ; none of 
Thackeray's friends of that time are introduced, and 
the authorities of Trinity are excluded. Nor is there 
any resemblance between the careers of Pendennis 
and his creator at the University : Pendennis was a 
dandy of the first water — Thackeray, it is true, before 
going up, did order *' a buckish coat of blue-black 
with a velvet collar," but there the resemblance ends. 
Pendennis hunted, gambled with (and was plundered 
by) card-sharpers, entertained lavishly, and spoke with 
great success at the Union : Thackeray did none of 
these things, except spend money freely ; and only 
resembled the other in the enjoyment he derived from 
being his own master, the change from the strict 
routine of the Charterhouse being a blessed relief. 

Every man, however brief or inglorious may 
have been his academical career, must remember with 
kindness and tenderness the old university com- 

^ De Finibus, 


rades and days. The young man's life is just 
beginning : the boy's leading strings are cut, and he 
has all the novel delights and dignities of freedom. 
He has no ideas of care yet, or of bad health, or 
of roguery, or poverty, or to-morrow's disappoint- 
ment. The play has not been acted so often as to 
make him tired. Though the after-drink, as we 
mechanically go on repeating it, is stale and bitter, 
how pure and brilliant was that first sparkling 
draught of pleasure ! — How the boy rushes at the 
cup, and with what a wild eagerness he drains it ! ^ 

In February 1829 Thackeray left Larkbeare for 
Cambridge, accompanied by Major Carmichael-Smyth 
(even as Major Pendennis went with his nephew 
Arthur), staying en route for a few days in London. 
They put up at Slaughter's Coffee House in St. 
Martin's Lane, an establishment patronised by William 
Dobbin and George Osborne, visited the Charterhouse, 
and went to see Dr. Turner, upon whom his late pupil 
now looked with a less unfavourable eye, and Mrs. 
Ritchie, who recommended the young man to the 
kind offices of her cousin. Dr. Thackeray, the Provost 
of King's. There were other Thackerays at Cambridge 
whom the undergraduate came to know ; George, 
a Fellow of King's, and a third, doctor of medicine, 
who once prescribed for his young relative, and refused 
to take a fee. ''What!" he demanded; ''do you 
take me for a cannibal ? " 

Thackeray, who had been entered at Trinity College, 
was put into ground-floor rooms in the Great Court, 
opposite the Master's Lodge, and on the left of the 
Great Gate, under those once occupied by Newton. 

^ Pendennis, chap, xiii (first edition) — other editions, chap. xvii. 

i83o] HIS STUDIES 49 

He went up with the intention to become a reading 
man, and to judge from a letter he wrote in March to 
his mother, no one could have started better. 

Badger and I are going to read Greek Play to- 
gether from eleven until twelve every day. I am 
getting more and more into the way of reading now. 
I go to Fawcett every other morning from eight to 
nine, to Fisher (the Mathematical lecturer) from nine 
to ten, and to Starr (the Classical one) from ten to 
eleven; then with Badger from eleven till twelve; 
twelve to half-past one Euclid or Algebra, and an 
hour in the evening at some one or other of the 
above, or perhaps at some of the collateral reading 
connected with Thucydides or ^schylus. This is 
my plan, which I trust to be able to keep.^ 

Not long afterwards he told his mother he had been 
to see ''our library," and had borrowed from it five 
stout quartos. He was apparently determined to win 
the approval of Whewell, his tutor, and Fawcett, his 
coach, whom he described as a "most desperate good- 
hearted bore." 

I am just beginning to find out the beauties of 
the Greek Play ; I pursue a plan of reading only the 
Greek without uttering a word of English, and thus 
having the language in itself, which I find adds 
to my pleasure in a very extraordinary manner and 
will, if I pursue it, lead me, I hope, to think in 
Greek, and of course will give me more fluency.^ 

It was doubtless the hope of being able to "think in 
Greek" that inspired Thackeray with the desire to 
compete for a college prize offered for the best essay on 
"The Influence of the Homeric Poems on the Religion, 

^ Merivale and Marzials : Thackeray, p. 69. 2 md,, p. 67. 

I.— E 


the Politics, the Literature and Society of Greece " ; 
but even at the outset he harboured a doubt : ''it will 
require much reading, which I fear I have not the time 
to bestow upon it." He soon found he had not the 
time to bestow on it. Indeed, as the novelty wore off, 
the new broom did not sweep so thoroughly, and the 
"plan which I trust to be able to keep" was soon 
abandoned in favour of pursuits more congenial. " If 
I get a fifth class in the examination I shall be lucky," 
he wrote home in May ; but he was put in the fourth 
class where, we have it on the authority of Dr. Thomp- 
son, ''clever non-reading men were put, as in a limbo." 
Thackeray threw himself gleefully into the usual 
undergraduate amusements, and never allowed his 
studies to interfere with supper-parties, where, "though 
not talkative, rather observant," he enjoyed the humour 
of the hours and would troll "Old King Cole" and 
other favourite ditties ; nor was he too occupied to play 
chess and practise fencing, or (as he was careful to re- 
cord) fall asleep over John Gait's "Life and Administra- 
tion of Cardinal Wolsey." Reading, however, was still 
his principal delight, and he now read poetry as well 
as the old English novels. History, too, came in for a 
share of his attention, and all the days of his life he 
advocated the study of that subject. " Read a tremen- 
dous lot of history," he advised a young cousin many 
years later ; though it must be admitted that, referring 
to this same subject, he declared to Cordy Jeaffreson : 
"There's nothing new, and there's nothing true, and 
it don't much signify " ; ^ but he realised to the full 
its value even after he had become acquainted with the 

* J. C. Jeaffreson : A Booh of Recollections, Vol. I, p. 211. 


sad fact that great deeds arise all too often from mean 

The dignity of history sadly diminishes as we 
grow better acquainted with the materials which com- 
pose it. In our orthodox history-books the characters 
move on as a gaudy play-house procession, a glitter- 
ing pageant of kings and warriors, and stately 
ladies, majestically appearing and passing away. 
Only he who sits very near to the stage can discover 
of what stuff the spectacle is made. The kings are 
poor creatures, taken from the dregs of the company; 
the noble knights are dirty dwarfs in tin foil ; the 
fair ladies are painted hags with cracked feathers 
and soiled trains. One wonders how gas and dis- 
tance could ever have rendered them so bewitching.^ 

At the University, as at school, Thackeray, by his 
love of books, was incited to take an active interest in 
literature. Shelley was then the rage at Cambridge, 
and Thackeray, like the rest, was attracted by the 
magic of that great wonderful poetry. 

When I come home I will bring with me ''The 
Revolt of Islam " by Percy Bysshe Shelley [he wrote 
to his mother]. It is (in my opinion) a most won- 
derful poem — though the story is absurd, and the 
republican sentiments conveyed in it, if possible, 
more absurd.^ 

But soon he altered his mind about introducing a 
revolutionary work into the peaceful household at 

Shelley appears to me to have been a man of very 
strong and good feelings, all perverted by the absurd 

^ Review of The " Duchess of Marlborough's Private Correspond- 
ence" in the Times, January 6, 1838. 

"^ Merivale and Marzials : Thackeray, p. 70. 


creed which he was pleased to uphold ; a man of 
high powers, which his conceit led him to over-rate, 
and his religion prompted him to misuse. ... I 
think I said I should bring home Shelley's '* Revolt of 
Islam," but I have rather altered my opinion, for it is 
an odd kind of book, containing poetry which would 
induce me to read it through, and sentiments which 
might strongly incline one to throw it into the fire.^ 

However, Shelley still retained his fascination over 
the young student, and when the scheme was mooted 
of a university magazine to be called the Chimera^ 
Thackeray volunteered an essay on the poet, and wrote 
it at Paris in the Long Vacation of 1829 ; but the 
bibliographers have not traced the publication either 
of the essay or the periodical. Thackeray also intended 
to speak at the Union when Shelley was the subject of 
debate, but the speech was not delivered, for the meet- 
ing was adjourned, and the orator's courage failed 
him in the interval. The only recorded instance of 
Thackeray taking part in a discussion at the Union 
was when the character of Napoleon was the theme. 

I have made a fool of myself [he wrote to his 
mother in March 1829] ; I have rendered myself a 
public character : I have exposed myself. I spouted 
at the Union. 

Unhappily no one thought it worth while to record 
his attitude towards le petit Caporal. What were his 
sentiments at that date towards the great filibuster? 
Did he show the average Englishman's hatred of the 
French? Was he carried away by the genius of that 
great general and legislator? or did he then in 

* Merivale and Marzials : Thackeray, p. 70. 

i83o] AN ESSAY CLUB 53 

feebler tones pipe the tune that later he sang so 
clearly ? 

He captured many thousand guns ; 

He wrote " The Great " before his name ; 
And, dying, only left his sons 

The recollection of his shame. 

Though more than half the world was his, 

He died without a rood his own. 
And borrowed from his enemies 

Six feet of ground to lie upon. 

He fought a thousand glorious wars, 
And more than half the world was his ; 

And somewhere now, in yonder stars. 
Can tell, mayhap, what greatness is?- 

Who maun to Cupar maun to Cupar, and Thackeray's 
desire to write found outlets from the first. 

We are going to establish an Essay Club [he told 
his mother on April 29, 1829]. There are as yet but 
four of us, Browne, Moody, Young, and myself, 
all Carthusians. We want no more Charterhouse 
men ; if we get ten we shall scarcely have to write 
three essays a year, so that it will take up but little 
of our time.^ 

Though no further record of the Essay Club exists, 
it seems probable that it came into being, and was 
taken by its members with great seriousness. 

Are we the same men now that . . . delivered 
or heard those essays and speeches so simple, so 
pompous, so ludicrously solemn ; parodied so art- 
lessly from books, and spoken with smug chubby 

^ The Chronicle of the Drum (1841). 

" Merivale and Marzials : Thackeray, p. 67. 


faces, and such an admirable aping of wisdom and 

Three essays a year did not exhaust Thackeray's 
vigour, and he was the mainstay of a small literary 
club that included John Allen, Henry Alford, William 
Hepworth Thompson, Robert Hindes Groome, and 
James Reynolds Young of Caius. ''I don't know that 
we ever agreed upon a name," Dr. Thompson has 
mentioned. ''Alford proposed the 'Covey' because we 
' made such a noise when we got up ' — to speak, that 
is ; but it was left for further consideration. I think 
Thackeray's subject was ' Duelling,' on which there 
was much diversity of opinion."^ 

Thackeray's chief pleasure was derived from his 
connection with two little university papers, founded 
by his fellow-student at Trinity, W. G. Lettsom, 
later Her Majesty's charge d'affaires in Uruguay. 
Lettsom (who afterwards declined the dedication of 
"The Book of Snobs") had early in 1829 projected a 
little weekly paper, which bore the title. The Snob : A 
Literary and Scientific Journal NOT Conducted by 
Members of THE University. The word " Snob" was 
here used, not in reference to " one who meanly admires 
mean things," but to denote a townsman in contra- 
distinction to a gownsman. "Though your name be 
Snob," Thackeray wrote to the editor, in the note pre- 
fixed to " Timbuctoo," " I trust you will not refuse this 
tiny poem of a gownsman." The Snob was doubtless 
so called because, as its contents were for the most 
part harmless squibs directed against the University, it 

^ Pendennis, chap. xix. 

^ Merivale and Marzials : Thackeray, p. 72. 

i83o] "TIMBUCTOO" 55 

was thought to add to the humour by a pretence that 
it was written by those unconnected with Alma Mater; 
while the explanatory ''Literary and Scientific Journal" 
was also a poor joke — the contents being solely would- 
be-amusing pieces in prose and verse. 

Thackeray soon became a contributor, and his skit 
on "Timbuctoo," the subject of the English poem for the 
Chancellor's medal (won by Alfred Tennyson), attracted 
some attention. 

A "poem of mine" hath appeared in a weekly 
periodical here published, and called the Snob. . . . 
"Timbuctoo" received much laud. I could not help 
finding out that I was very fond of this same praise. 
The men knew not the author, but praised the poem. 
How eagerly I sucked it in ! "All is vanity " ! ^ 

In Africa (a quarter of the world) 
Men's skins are black, their hair is crisp and curled ; 
And somewhere there, unknown to public view, 
A mighty city lies, called Timbuctoo. 

Thus the opening. Then follows a description of the 
fauna and flora of Timbuctoo, of a lion-hunt, of the 
home-life of the inhabitants and the misery caused by 
the introduction of slavery ; the whole concluding with 
a prophecy of dire disaster to Europe. 

The day shall come when Albion's self shall feel 
Stern Afric's wrath and writhe 'neath Afric's steel. 
I see her tribes the hill of glory mount, 
And sell their sugars on their own account, 
While round her throne the prostrate nations come, 
Sue for her rice and barter for her rum.^ 

^ Merivale and Marzials : Thackeray, p. 71. 
2 The Snob, April 30, 1829. 


It was a feeble production ; and indeed there is little 
amusement to be derived from a perusal of this and 
other farcical absurdities contributed to the little paper, 
which, however, served its purpose in amusing its 

On Monday night myself and the editor of the 
Snob sat down to write the Snob for Thursday. We 
began at nine and finished at two ; but I was so 
afflicted with laughter that I came away quite ill. . . . 
The Snob goeth on and prospereth. I have put 
"Genevieve" into it with a little alteration. Here is 
a specimen of my wit in the shape of an advertisement 
therein inserted : — ''Sidney Sussex College. Wanted 
a few Freshmen. Apply at the Butteries, where the 
smallest contribution will be gratefully received." ^ 

The contributions of Thackeray to the Siiob and its 
successor, the Goimisman^ were neither better nor 
worse than the average undergraduate production ; 
and it will suffice to make a passing reference to 
those letters signed "Dorothea Julia Ramsbottom," 
inept parodies of Theodore Hook's Mrs. Ramsbottom, 
which are interesting, only because in them may, per- 
haps, be detected the germ from which, seven years 
later, sprang the later correspondence of the erudite 
Mr. Yellowplush.2 

Though Thackeray left Cambridge in June 1830 
without taking a degree, his residence there was of 
value to him. He read widely if not deeply, and 

^ C. p. Johnson : Early Writings of Thackeray, p. 7. 

^ Thackeray's contributions to the Snob and the Gownsman have been 
collected by the present writer, and printed in "Thackeray's Stray 
Papers" (1901), and again in Macmillan's edition of Thackeray's Col- 
lected Works, Vol. IX, " Burlesques . . • Juvenilia," pp. 389-401. 


laid the foundation-stone of his future works: ^^Now 
is the time to lay in stock," he said in later days to 
a young man at college ; ** I wish I had had five 
years' reading before I took to our trade ";^ but the 
greatest benefits he derived from his stay at the Univer- 
sity were those delightful and enduring friendships 
that date from this period. 

Perhaps never before or since has a college housed 
at the same time so many gifted young men as Trinity 
boasted in the days when Thackeray was there. 
Amongst them were Alfred Tennyson and his 
brothers, Charles and Frederick, whose '^ Poems by 
Two Brothers " had appeared in 1827 ; Joseph Williams 
Blakesley, afterwards Dean of Lincoln ; James Sped- 
ding, the author of the standard Life and Works of 
Bacon ; Arthur Hallam and Thomas Sunderland, 
whose promising careers were brought to untimely 
ends ; Ralph Bernal, afterwards known as Bernal- 
Osborne ; Charles Rann Kennedy and Edward 
Horsman ; John Sterling, the subject of Carlyle's 
memoir ; Edmund Law Lushington, the famous 
Greek scholar, and the husband of the sister of 
Tennyson, the epilogue to whose **In Memoriam " is 
an epithalamium on the marriage ; John, afterwards 
Archdeacon, Allen ; Henry Alford, who became Dean 
of Canterbury ; William Hepworth Thompson, sub- 
sequently Master of Trinity ; Richard Chenevix 
Trench, one day to be Archbishop of Dublin ; Alex- 
ander William Kinglake, the future author of 
''Eothen" and historian of the Crimean War; John 
Mitchell Kemble, Richard Monckton Milnes, afterwards 

^ Hannay : Short Memoir of Thackeray, p. 23, 


first Baron Houghton ; William Henry Brookfield and 
Edward FitzGerald. Most of these men had given 
some indication of their talents even at this early date, 
and, for that reason, it is somewhat surprising to find 
Thackeray in the set, for he had come from the 
Charterhouse without any particular reputation, and 
nothing he did at the University showed promise of 
future greatness or even of considerable ability : 
**We did not see in him even the germ of those 
literary powers which, under the stern influences of 
necessity, he afterwards developed," Dr. Thompson 
has admitted ; and no other contemporary has come 
forward to controvert the statement. Once Thackeray 
obtained the entree, however, his invariable good- 
temper and his keen sense of humour made his place 
secure. With some of them, as it has been said, he 
formed an Essay Club, but with the majority his rela- 
tions were purely social. 

Now the boy has grown bigger. He has got 
a black gown and cap, something like the dervish. 
He is at a table, with ever so many bottles on it, and 
fruit, and tobacco ; and other young dervishes come 
in. They seem as if they were singing. To them 
enters an old moollah, he takes down their names, 
and orders them all to go to bed.^ 

Besides his old schoolfellow Venables, who was at 
Jesus, Thackeray at Cambridge contracted friendships 
that endured through life with James White, of Pem- 
broke College, subsequently Vicar of Loxley and 
author of *'The Eighteen Christian Centuries," "The 
Earl of Gowrie : A Tragedy," and many other works. 

^ De Juventute, 

i83o] REV. W. H. BROOKFIELD 59 

O Jimmy, and Johnny, and Willy, friends of my 
youth ! . . . how should he who knows you, not 
respect you and your calling? May this pen never 
write a pennyworth again, if it ever cast ridicule 
upon either ! ^ 

"Willy" was William Brookfield, of whom some- 
thing will presently be said, and "Johnny " was John 
Allen, who subsequently for a while lived in Great 
Coram Street, opposite Thackeray, when FitzGerald 
sent him a message ; " Give my love to Thackeray 
from your upper window across the street." 

Very pleasant always were the relations between 
Thackeray and Richard Monckton Milnes, and 
Thackeray was a frequent visitor at Fryston, "a 
house," he said to his host, the elder Monckton 
Milnes, paying him a compliment for permission to 
smoke everywhere but in Richard's own rooms, "a 
house which combines the freedom of the tavern with 
the elegancies of the chateau.'*'' On Thackeray's return 
from Paris, after the failure of the National Standard^ 
Monckton Milnes was one of the first to be informed 
of the ex-newspaper's correspondent's arrival. 

The Young Chevalier is arrived, and to be heard 
of at the Bedford Hotel in Covent Garden, or at the 
Garrick Club, King Street. He accepts breakfasts, — 
and dinners still more willingly.^ 

We may be siire many breakfasts and dinners were 
offered and taken. It was to Monckton Milnes more 
than to anyone else that Thackeray went for advice 
during the years of weary waiting for success, and 

^ The Booh of Snobs, chap. xi. On Clerical Snobs. 

^ Wemyss Reid : Life of Lord Houghton, Vol. I, p. 426. 


before leaving England to pay his first visit to America 
he sent his old friend a note of acknowledgment. 

A word and a God bless you and yours at 
parting, I was thinking of our acquaintance the 
other day, and how it had been marked on your 
part by constant kindnesses, along which I can trace 
it. Thank you for them, and let me shake your 
hand, and say Vale and Salved 

During the Easter Parliamentary recess of 1863, 
Thackeray went to Fryston for the last time, and on the 
following Christmas Eve, Monckton Milnes, now Lord 
Houghton, received a sheet of notepaper, headed Palace 
Green, Kensington, upon which no words were written, 
but which bore a little coloured sketch of a robin- 
redbreast perched upon the coronet of a baron — 
Thackeray's unconscious farewell, for, ere this greeting 
reached the newly created peer, the artist had passed 
away. Monckton Milnes was much grieved by the 
news of Thackeray's death, and he was very angry that 
the authorities did not ask permission to bury the 
novelist within the precincts of Westminster Abbey. 
He drew an ''Historical Contrast" between this 
behaviour and the conduct of Dr. Sprat, Bishop of 
Rochester and Dean of Westminster, on the death of 
Dryden, who 

*' Waited for no suggestive prayer, 

But, ere one day clos'd o'er the scene, 
Craved, as a boon, to lay him there; " 

and he paid a tribute to the great humorist of his day 
in the concluding stanzas : 

1 Wemyss Reid : Life of Lord Houghton, Vol. II, p 112. 


** O gentle censor of our age ! 

Prime master of our ampler tongue ! 
Whose word of wit and generous page 
Were never wrath, except with wrong, — 

Fielding — without the manner's dross, . 

Scott — with a spirit's larger room ; — 
What Prelate deems thy grave his loss ? 

What Halifax erects thy tomb ? 

But, mayhap, he, — who could so draw 
The hidden great, — the humble wise, 

Yielding with them to God's good law. 
Makes the Pantheon where he lies."^ 

When, a little before the end of his life, one of his 
daughters asked Thackeray which friends he had loved 
the best, he replied, *' Why, dear old Fitz, of course, 
and Brookfield." 

Thackeray's intimacy with Brookfield was lifelong, 
and when in 1841 Brookfield married (the daughter of 
Sir Charles Elton of Clevedon), it was eagerly and 
heartily extended to his wife. 

A friend I had, and at his side — the story dates from seven 

long year — 
One day I found a blushing bride, a tender lady kind and 

dear ! 
They took me in, they pitied me, they gave me kindly words 

and cheer, 
A kinder welcome who shall see than yours, O friend and 

lady dear? ^ 

A volume of Thackeray's letters to the Brookfields 
has been published, and from a perusal of it may be 

^ Cornhill Magazine, February 1864. 

* Charles and Frances Brookfield : Mrs. Brookfield and her Circle. 
Vol. I, p. 113. 


seen how delightful were the relations between them. 
The novelist was never too busy to write to " My dear 
Vieux " and his. wife from town, from the Continent, 
from New York, long chatty letters, often about trifles, 
sometimes about grave matters. " I tell you and 
William most things," he said to Mrs. Brookfield. 
Their house was always open to him ; their regard for 
him was carried to his children; and Mrs. Brookfield, 
on the last day of her life, quoted to Thackeray's sur- 
viving daughter a passage from the great novelist's 
works : 

Try to frequent the company of your betters. In 
books and life that is the most wholesome society ; 
learn to admire rightly ; the great pleasure of life is 
that. Note what the great men admired ; they 
admired great things ; narrow spirits admire basely 
and worship meanly.^ 

Thackeray portrayed his old schoolfellow in *' Travels 
in London " as the good-natured curate, Frank White- 
stock ; and he introduced some traits of Mrs. Brookfield 
into the composite character of Amelia Osborne {nee 

In their earlier years Thackeray and FitzGerald were 
regular correspondents, and ''Old Fitz," or "Cupid," 
or " Ned," '' Neddibus," " Neddikins," or '' Yedward," 
as his friend called him, was able to fill a volume with 
the drawings sent him by the other, whose habit it 
was to illustrate his letters. FitzGerald used to stay 
with his friend in Great Coram Street (Jorum Street, 
Thackeray called it) and also in Young Street, and the 
novelist loved to have him in the house. "He is 

' English Humorists — Pope. 


a delightful companion ; the only drawback is we 
talk so much of books and poems that neither do much 
work." The poet's diary contains many entries, and 
his letters many references, concerning his great literary 
brother. He tells how, in December 1832, Thackeray 
came to see him before returning to Devonshire. " He 
came very opportunely to divert my Blue Devils : not- 
withstanding, we do not see very much of each other : 
and he has now so many friends (especially the Bullers) 
that he has no such wish for my society. He is as full 
of good humour and kindness as ever."^ Yet they 
continued to correspond when Thackeray was abroad, 
and met frequently after his return, though after 1848 
or 1849 they saw less of each other. 

" I am going to Spedding's rooms this very evening: 
and there I believe Thackeray, Venables, etc., are 
to be," FitzGerald wrote to Frederick Tennyson on 
April 17, 1850. *' I hope not a large assembly, for 
I get shyer and shyer even of those I know." It is in 
this letter that he said, " Thackeray is in such a great 
world that I am afraid of him ; he gets tired of me, 
and we are content to regard each other at a distance."- 
But Thackeray never tired of his old college friend. 
** I am glad you like it," he wrote after hearing of the 
other's approval of "Vanity Fair" — and the explanation 
of the subsequent irregular correspondence and the rare 
meetings may be traced to FitzGerald's increasing love 
of seclusion. But, despite the latter's complaint, there 
was no coldness in their hearts. "And so dear old 
Thackeray is really going to America," FitzGerald 

- Letters of Edward FitzGerald, Vol. I, p. i8. 
"^ Ibid., Vol. I, p. 295. 


exclaimed, hearing the news. ** I must fire him a 
letter of farewell." And he wrote to him, and told him 
of a provision he had made in his will. ''You see," 
he said, "you can owe me no thanks for giving what 
I can no longer use when I go down into the pit. . . ." ^ 
And Thackeray's reply to his "dearest old friend," just 
before he sailed, breathes a deep sense of love. 

I mustn't go away without shaking your hand 
and saying Farewell and God Bless you. If any- 
thing happens to me, you by these presents must 
get ready the Book of Ballads which you like, and 
which I had not time to prepare before embarking 
on this voyage. And I should like my daughters to 
remember that you are the best and oldest friend their 
Father ever had, and that you would act as such : 
as my literary executor and so forth. My books 
would yield a something as copyrights : and should 
anything occur, I have commissioned friends in 
good places to get a Pension for my poor little wife. 
. . . Does not this sound gloomily? Well : who 
knows what Fate is in store : and I feel not at all 
downcast, but very grave and solemn, just at the 
brink of a great voyage. . . . The greatest comfort 
I have in thinking about my dear old boy is that 
recollection of our youth when we loved each other 
as I do now while I write Farewell ! ^ 

FitzGerald, late in 1856, went to town, where he 
hoped to catch sight of " old Thackeray, who, Donne 
wrote me word, came suddenly on him in Pall Mall 
the other day ; while all the people suppose ' The 
Newcomes' was being indited at Rome or Naples." 
" Oddly enough," he wrote to E. B. Cowell on 
January 26, 1857, "as I finished the last sentence, 

^ Letters of Ed'<vard FitzGerald, Vol. II, p. lo. 
2 Ibid.y Vol. II, p. 9. 

i83o] "OLD THACKERAY" 65 

Thackeray was announced ; he came in, looking gray, 
grand, and good-humoured ; and I held up this Letter 
and told him whom it was written to, and he sends his 
Love ! He goes lecturing all over England ; has 
fifty pounds for each lecture ; and says he is ashamed 
of the fortune he is making. But he deserves it." ^ A 
few days after FitzGerald went to hear his friend's dis- 
course on George HL ''Very agreeable to me, though 
I did not think highly of the lecture." 

This must have been one of the last meetings, if, 
indeed, it was not the last meeting, of the two men. 
But the long interval did not deaden their feelings, 
and news of his friend's death, in 1863, came as a great 
shock to FitzGerald. " A great figure has sunk under 
earth," he said to George Crabbe, grandson of the poet; 
and in a letter, dated January 7, 1864, asking Samuel 
Laurence for particulars of his two portraits of 
Thackeray, he wrote : " I am surprised almost to find 
how much I am thinking of him : so little as I had 
seen of him for the last ten years ; not once for the last 
five. I have been told — by you, for one — that he was 
spoiled. I am glad therefore that I have scarce seen 
him since he was ' old Thackeray.' I keep reading his 
' Newcomes ' of nights, and as it were hear him saying 
so much in it ; and it seems to me as if he might be 
coming up my Stairs, and about to come (singing) 
into my Room, as in old Charlotte Street, etc. thirty 
years ago."^ 

FitzGerald had throughout followed Thackeray's 
career with great interest, and, as the many criticisms 

^ Letters of Edward FitzGerald, WoX. II., p. 52. 
2 Ibid., Vol. II, p. 171. 
I. — F 


in his letters testify, read all that his friend wrote. 
'*As to Thackeray's " (books) "they are terrible ; I really 
look at them on the shelf, and am half afraid to touch 
them," he wrote in 1875 to Samuel Laurence. *' He, you 
know, could go deeper into the springs of Common 
Action than these Ladies (Miss Austen and George 
Eliot) ; wonderful he is, but not delightful, which one 
thirsts for as one gets old and dry."^ And finally, com- 
paring the literary merits of Disraeli with Thackeray, 
he said: ''The book (* Lothair ') is like a pleasant 
Magic Lantern ; when it is over, I shall forget it, and 
shall want to return to what I do not forget, some of 
Thackeray's monumental figures of pauvre et triste 
htimaiiite, as old Napoleon calls it : Humanity in its 
Depths, not in its superficial Appearances." ^ 

Thackeray and Tennyson formed a mutual admiration 
society a deiix. Thackeray, ill in bed, eagerly devoured 
"The Idylls of the King." "Oh! I must write to him 
now for this pleasure, this delight, this splendour of 
happiness which I have been enjoying," he said in a 
note to the poet,^ who declared that this tribute gave 
him "more pleasure than all the journals and month- 
lies and quarterlies which have come across me ; not so 
much from your being the Great Novelist I hope as 
from your being my good old friend or from your 
being both of these in one." ^ When the poet-laureate's 
"Grandmother" appeared in Once a Week, " I wish 
I could have got that poem for my Cornhillj" said 

^ Letters of Edward FitzGerald, Vol. Ill, p. 203. 

'^ Ibid., Vol. Ill, p. 17. 

' Life and Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Vol. II, p. 287. 

^ Ibid., Vol. II, P284. 


the editor of the magazine to Locker-Lampson. " I 
would have paid fifty pounds for it, but I would 
have given five hundred pounds to be able to write 
it."^ And numerous were the affectionate notes ex- 
changed. *' You don't know how pleased the girls 
were at Kensington t'other day to hear you quote their 
father's little verses," Thackeray wrote in 1859; "and 
he too I daresay was not disgusted." ^ 

^ F. Locker Lampson : My Confidences, p. 298. 

^ Life and Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Vol. II, p. 286. 


AM RHEIN (1830-1831) 

Thackeray goes abroad — Paris — Coblenz — Godesberg — Cologne — 
Weimar — Weimar in "Vanity Fair" — his flirtations — Dorothea and 
her prototype — his opinions of the German writers — Mme. Goethe — 
"Grand old Goethe." 

IN the earlier decades of the nineteenth century it 
was still customary for a young man of means 
and fashion, after he came down from the 
University, to make a more or less extended tour 
through Europe, usually with a "bear-leader" dis- 
guised as a tutor, but sometimes alone, when the 
Young Hopeful had inspired confidence in his steadi- 
ness in the bosoms of those members of his family who 
were responsible for, or who charged themselves with, 
his welfare. This latter privilege, so much desired by 
a lad about to enter the broad arena of the world, 
was secured by Thackeray, about to go abroad when, 
at the age of nineteen (1830), he left Cambridge. This 
presupposes he had then secured a reputation for 
common sense, which he was presently, to some 
extent, to belie by allowing himself to be victimised in 
a commercial transaction and to be swindled at the 
card-table : he was, however, on the whole sensible 
enough for one of his years. " Be sure," he said years 
afterwards, "if thou hast never been a fool, thou wilt 


1 830] ABROAD 69 

never be a wise man." The picture of him at this time 
is that of a lad of no great intellectual ability, but with 
the agreeable qualities of humour, amiability, and 
kindness, a love of books and of the lighter branches 
of pictorial art, and a considerable talent for satirical 
sketches both with pen and pencil that indicate to us, 
who can trace from them the development of his 
genius, a power of observation unusually acute for so 
young a man. In appearance he was, at this time, 
according to Dr. Thompson, a tall, thin, large-eyed, 
full and ruddy-faced man, with an eyeglass fixed en 

Thackeray prepared himself for his travels by taking 
in London a course of German lessons with a Herr 
Troppenheger — who, doubtless, would be mightily 
surprised to find his name remembered after the lapse 
of the greater part of a century — and in July 1830 he 
set out for the Continent. Paying a visit to Paris en 
route, he arrived at the end of the month at Coblenz, 
and then, going north, he came to Godesberg, a town 
that occupied an important place in his '* Legend of the 
Rhine." There he stayed a month, noting the habits 
and customs of the inhabitants and endeavouring to 
supplement his slight knowledge of the German 
language, so that, as Mark Twain has happily put 
it, he should not make twins out of a dative dog. 
Eventually he went on a Rhine steamer to Cologne, 
as afterwards did Mr. Titmarsh in company with the 
Kickleburys, whose travels he recorded and illustrated. 
Thackeray refused to describe the river, which, he 
declared, was as familiar to English people as the 
Thames, and subsequently Titmarsh made a similar 


resolve, to which he adhered until he saw a sunrise at 
Cologne, when he gave voice to an exquisite prose 

Deutz lay opposite [he wrote in a white heat of 
enthusiasm], and over Deutz the dusky sky was red- 
dened. The hills were veiled in the mist and the 
grey. The grey river flowed underneath us ; the 
steamers were roosting along the quays, a light 
keeping watch in the cabins here and there, and its 
reflections quivering in the water. As I look, the 
sky-line towards the east grows redder and redder. 
A long troop of grey horsemen winds down the 
river road, and passes over the bridge of boats. You 
might take them for ghosts, those grey horsemen, so 
shadowy do they look ; but you hear the trample of 
their hoofs as they pass over the planks. Every 
minute the dawn twinkles up into the twilight ; and 
over Deutz the heaven blushes brighter. The quays 
begin to fill with men : the carts begin to creak and 
rattle, and wake the sleeping echoes. Ding, ding, 
ding, the steamers' bells begin to ring : the people 
on board to stir and wake : the lights may be extin- 
guished, and take their turn of sleep : the active 
boats shake themselves, and push out into the river : 
the great bridge opens, and gives them passage : the 
church bells of the city begin to clink : the cavalry 
trumpets blow from the opposite bank : the sailor is 
at the wheel, the porter at his burthen, the soldier at 
his musket, and the priest at his prayers. . . . And 
lo ! in a flash of crimson splendour, with blazing 
scarlet clouds running before his chariot, and herald- 
ing his majestic approach, God's sun rises upon the 
world, and all nature wakens and brightens.^ 

Leisurely, by way of Elberfeld, Cassel, and the quaint 
old town of Gotha, Thackeray proceeded on his travels, 
and at last on September 29 arrived at Weimar. He 

^ The Kicklehurys on the Rhine. 


came for a few days, but stayed months in the ''little, 
comfortable, Grand-Ducal town of Pumpernickel," as 
in "Vanity Fair" he styled it — that little town where 
Sir Pitt Crawley was for years an attache and where 
that ''infernal slyboots of a Tapeworm," the Secretary 
of the English Legation, showed himself susceptible 
to the charms of Amelia Osborne. 

Pumpernickel [he wrote with satire tempered by 
the memory of happy days spent there] stands in the 
midst of a happy valley, through which sparkles — 
to mingle with the Rhine somewhere, but I have 
not the map at hand to say exactly at what point — 
the fertilising stream of the Pump. In some places 
the river is big enough to support a ferry-boat, in 
others to turn a mill ; in Pumpernickel itself, the 
last Transparency but three, the great and renowned 
Victor Aurelius XIV. built a magnificent bridge, 
on which his own statue rises, surrounded by water- 
nymphs and emblems of victory, peace, and plenty ; 
he has his foot on the neck of a prostrate Turk — 
history says he engaged and ran a Janissary through 
the body at the relief of Vienna by Sobieski, — but 
quite undisturbed by the agonies of the prostrate 
Mahometan, who writhes at his feet in the most 
ghastly manner — the Prince smiles blandly, and 
points with his truncheon in the direction of the 
Aurelius Platz, where he began to erect a new 
palace that would have been the wonder of the age, 
had the great-souled Prince but funds to complete 
it. But the completion of Monplaisir {Monblaisir, 
the honest German folks call it) was stopped for lack 
of ready money, and it and its park and garden are 
now in rather a faded condition, and not more than 
ten times big enough to accommodate the Court of 
the reigning Sovereign.^ 

Thackeray arrived at Pumpernickel-Weimar at the 

^ Vanity Fair^ chap. Ixiii. 


beginning of September, and found already settled 
there Norman MacLeod, the son of the Moderator of 
the General Assembly and himself afterwards a cele- 
brated Scotch divine, and his old Trinity friend, 
Lettsom, who was attached to the suite of the English 
Minister ; and with these two young men learnt 
German from Dr. Weissenborn, — ''thou wert my in- 
structor, good old Weissenborn."^ It was a quiet, 
homely little place in the early thirties, the capital 
of the Grand-Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, and 
Thackeray was so happy that he wrote home in 
December to say he would much appreciate an 
appointment as attache that would enable him to stay 
there. " I have never seen a society more simple, 
charitable, courteous, gentlemanlike, than that of the 
dear little Saxon city where the good Schiller and the 
great Goethe lived and lie buried," Thackeray de- 
clared in after-life, when he had pictured it in those 
chapters of "Vanity Fair" where " der Herr Graf 
von Sedley nebst Begleitung" goes Am Rhein. 

Everybody in Pumpernickel knew everybody. No 
sooner was a foreigner seen there, than the Minister 
for Foreign Affairs, or some other great or small 
officer of state, went round to the Erbprinz (Hotel), 
and found out the name of the new arrivals. . . . 
It was very agreeable for the English. There were 
shooting-parties and battues ; there was a plenty of 
balls and entertainments at the hospitable Court ; 
the society was generally good ; the theatre excellent, 
and the living cheap. "^ 

Thackeray declared that Weimar was the most 
hospitable place in the world so far as tea-parties were 

^ De Finibus. ^ Vanity Fair, chap. Ixii. 


concerned, though he lamented that he was never in 
one where invitations to dinner were so scarce ; but 
this was the only fault he could find with the place, 
and if the entertainment was frugal, the welcome at 
least was hearty. He went to Court, where in his 
turn he was commanded to balls and assemblies, and 
— there at least — to dinners. Most of the Germans 
had a uniform, and, as is their custom, always 
appeared in it, and those English who had one, dip- 
lomatic or military, wore it when paying their re- 
spects to the Grand-Duke and Duchess ; while those 
who had not invented one — the Hof-Marschall of that 
day, M. de Spiegel, the father of two beautiful girls, 
though a martinet so far as the dress of his country- 
men was concerned, good-naturedly overlooking the 
contrivances of the young strangers. Thackeray sub- 
sequently told George Henry Lewes that he re- 
membered inventing "gorgeous clothing" for these 
gatherings ; but he wrote home at the time to com- 
plain that he was somewhat troubled by his makeshift 
dress of black coat, waistcoat, and trousers cut down 
to breeches, in which he declared he looked half a 
footman, half a Methodist parson ; and he begged his 
stepfather to secure for him a cornetcy in Sir John 
Kennaway's Yeomanry, so that he might attire himself 
suitably. The only other grievance he had in these 
happy days was that all the young ladies at Weimar 
spoke English so well that he had no opportunity to 
speak German. 

Thackeray visited the theatre which was open two or 
three nights a week, and where the entire society of 
Weimar assembled, * ' a large family party. " Besides the 


regular company, famous artists came from other parts 
of Germany, and he saw Ludwig Devrient, "the Kean 
of Germany " he called him, as Shylock, Hamlet, Fal- 
staff, and the hero in " Die Rauber," and the beautiful 
Schroder in "Fidelio." He drew on his memory of 
this time when he sent Jos and Emmy and Dobbin to a 
Gast-rolle night at the Royal Grand-Ducal Pumper- 
nickelisch Hof-Theater, when they saw ''Die Schlacht 
bei Vittoria," in which the melody of "God save the 
King " is performed. 

There may have been a score of Englishmen in 
the house, but at the burst of the beloved and well- 
known music, every one of them . . . stood bolt 
upright in their places, and proclaimed themselves 
to be members of the dear old British nation. ^ 

Thackeray had at this time some love-affairs, but, 
though they lingered in his memory, to judge from the 
tone in which he wrote about them, they were not very 

Now I see one of the young men alone [he remem- 
bered thirty years later]. He is walking in a street — 
a dark street — presently a light comes to a window. 
There is the shadow of a lady who passes. He 
stands there till the light goes out. Now he is in a 
room scribbling on a piece of paper, and kissing a 
miniature every now and then. They seem to be 
lines each pretty much of a length. I can read hearty 
smart, dart; Mary, fairy ; Cupid, stupid; true, you; 
and never mind what more. Bah ! it is bosh.2 

He thoroughly enjoyed his flirtations, humorously 
bemoaning his fate when a girl was allured from him 
by the fascinations of a young Guardsman with mag- 

^ Vanity Fair, chap. Ixii. ^ De Juventute. 

i83i] "DOROTHEA" 75 

nificent waistcoats and ten thousand a year, by trans- 
lating, for the benefit of his mother, poor Thekla's 
song in " Wallenstein," 

This world is empty, 

This heart is dead, 
Its hopes and its ashes 

For ever are fled.^ 

Some ten years after Thackeray was at Weimar Mr. 
George Savage Fitz-Boodle, who had followed in his 
creator's footsteps, narrated his amorous ''Confes- 
sions," and it is impossible to put aside the suspicion 
that these were based upon the author's experiences. 
Whether Thackeray, like Fitz-Boodle, met at Bonn 
some "pretty Mina, daughter of Moses Lowe, banker," 
who, after this lapse of time, shall say? and of greedy 
Ottilia no trace is to be found in the records of 
Thackeray's travels. At Weimar, however, he met 
the original of Dorothea, daughter of Herr Ober-Hof- 
und-Bau-Inspektor von Speck, and for her sweet sake 
learned to dance. He made his first appearance as a 
dancer at a Court Ball, secured Dorothea as partner, 
and danced with her on a highly waxed floor, danced 
—and fell ! 

O Dorothea ! you can't forgive me, you oughtn't 
to forgive me ; but I love you madly still. My next 
flame was Ottilia.^ 

After twenty-three years, Thackeray revisited ' ' the 
cheery social little German place," and pointed out to 
his daughters the house where his heroine had lived. 

^ Merivale and Marzials : Thackeray, p. 82. 
^ Confessions of Fitz-Boodle — Dorothea. 


Dorothea had gone from Weimar, but her erstwhile 
lover was to see her soon after at Venice, at breakfast 
in a hotel, a fat woman whom he did not recognise 

until she was pointed out to him as Madame von Z . 

"My poor father turned away, saying in a low, over- 
whelmed voice, ' That Amalia ! That cannot be 
Amalia ! ' " his eldest daughter has recorded. '* I 
could not understand his silence, his discomposure. 
' Aren't you going to speak to her? Oh, please do go 
and speak to her,' we both cried. ' Do make sure if it 
is Amalia.' But he shook his head. ' I can't,' he 
said; 'I had rather not.' Amalia, meanwhile, having 
finished her ^^^^ rose deliberately, laid down her 
napkin, and walked away, followed by her little boy."^ 
In a town that owed its world-wide fame to the 
welcome it had extended to Goethe, Schiller, Herder, 
and Wieland, it was natural that the talk in the salons 
should be of letters and art. Thackeray, to whom 
such conversation was congenial, and who indeed 
did not require any spur to take him to the company 
of books, read diligently the standard German authors. 
Herwegh, now no more than a name even to most of 
his countrymen, the young Englishman studied, and 
later wrote of in characteristic Titmarshian manner : 

It is absurd to place this young man forward as a 
master. His poetry is a convulsion, not an effort of 
strength ; he does not sing, but he roars ; his dis- 
like amounts to fury ; and we must confess that it 
seems to us, in many instances, that his hatred and 
heroism are quite factitious, and that his enthusiasm 
has a very calculating look with it. Fury, to be 
effective either in life or in print, should surely only 

^ Lady Ritchie : Chapters from some Memoirs, pp. 1 17-18. 


be occasional. People become quite indifferent to 
wrath which is roaring and exploding all day : as 
gunners go to sleep upon batteries. Think of the 
prodigious number of appeals to arms that our 
young poet has made in the course of these pages ; 
what a waving and clatter of flashing thoughts ; 
what a loading and firing of double-barrelled words ; 
and, when the smoke rolls off, nobody killed I ^ 

Uhland, Korner, Von Chamisso, and others he read, 
and afterwards translated ; and, of course, Goethe and 
Schiller. ''Faust" did not arouse in him great en- 
thusiasm. ''Of course I am delighted, but not to 
that degree I expected " ; but for Schiller's plays and 
poems he had unbounded admiration. 

I have been reading Shakespeare in German [he 
wrote to his mother]. If I could ever do the same 
for Schiller in English, I should be proud of having 
conferred a benefit on my country. ... I do believe 
him to be, after Shakespeare, "the poet."^ 

The greatest figure in Weimar in Thackeray's day 
was Goethe, who had now retired from the direction of 
the theatre, and, indeed, also from general society, 
though his daughter-in-law, Madame de Goethe, who 
kept house for him, occasionally gave a tea-party to 
some of his favourites. Thackeray and his English 
friends were frequent visitors, and went there night 

^ George Herwegh's Poems {Foreign Quarterly Review, April 1843). 
The translations from Herwegh were printed by the present writer 
in an article on "Thackeray's Ballads" in the Fortnightly Review 
(November 1907) and LittelTs Living Age (December 1907). The article 
was first reprinted by Mr. R. S. Garnett in "The New Sketch Book," 
and it has since been included by Professor Saintsbury in the Oxford 
edition of Thackeray's Works. 

"^ Merivale and Marzials : Thackeray, p. 81. 


after night to talk, or listen to music, bringing with 
them books or magazines from England for Goethe 
to glance at. The Maclise caricatures in the early- 
numbers of Fraser^s Magazine interested the old man, 
until there appeared the terrible sketch of cadaverous 
Sam Rogers, of which Maginn wrote : ^^De mortuis 
nil nisi honum! There is Sam Rogers, a mortal like- 
ness, painted to the very death!" "They would 
make me look like that," Goethe exclaimed angrily. 
Thackeray, who could fancy " nothing more serene, 
majestic, and healthy -looking than the grand old 
Goethe," remembered this remark, and on his return 
gave Maclise a sketch of the old man, which the artist 
copied and inserted in the issue of the magazine for 
March 1832.^ In those days already it was Thackeray's 
great pleasure to draw caricatures for children, and 
when he revisited Weimar more than a score of years 
after, he was touched to find that several of his sketches 
had been preserved. 

Thackeray naturally regarded as the most memor- 
able day of his stay at Weimar his first meeting with 
''grand old Goethe," who received him kindly, and, it 
pleased the young man to think, **in rather a more 
distingue manner than he has used the other English- 
men here." He never forgot the day (October 20) 
when he met this redoubtable personage — it was like 
a visit to a dentist, he told Monckton Milnes ; and 

' The copy in Fraser's Magazine proved a total failure and involun- 
tary caricature, resembling-, as was said at the time, a wretched old- 
clothes-man carrying' behind his back a hat which he seemed to have 
stolen." — Carlyle : Miscellanies, Vol. Ill, p. 93, 

The orig-inal by Maclise is in the South Kensington Museum. 


after a quarter of a century he could recall every detail 
of the brief interview. 

Of course I remember very well the perturbation 
of spirit with which, as a lad of nineteen, I received 
the long-expected intimation that the Herr Geheim- 
rath would see me on such a morning. This notable 
audience took place in a little ante-chamber of his 
private apartments, covered all round with antique 
casts and bas-reliefs. He was habited in a long 
gray or drab redingote, with a white neckcloth and 
a red ribbon in his button-hole. He kept his hands 
behind his back, just as in Ranch's statuette. His 
complexion was very bright, clear, and rosy. His 
eyes extraordinarily dark, piercing and brilliant.^ I 
felt quite afraid before them, and recollect comparing 
them to the eyes of the hero of a certain romance 
called ' ' Melmoth the Wanderer, " which used to alarm 
us boys thirty years ago ; eyes of an individual who 
had made a bargain with a Certain Person, and at 
an extreme old age retain these eyes in all their 
awful splendour. I fancy Goethe must have been 
still more handsome as an old man than even in 
the days of his youth. His voice was very rich 
and sweet. He asked me questions about myself, 
which I answered as best I could. I recollect I 
was at first astonished, and then somewhat relieved, 
when I found he spoke French with not a good 

Vidi tantum. I saw him but three times. Once 
walking in the garden of his house in the Frauen- 
platz ; once going to step into his chariot on a sun- 
shiny day, wearing a cap and a cloak with a red 
collar. He was caressing at the time a beautiful 
little golden-haired granddaughter, over whose sweet 
face the earth has long since closed too.' 

^ "This must have been the effect of the position in which he sat 
with regard to the light. Goethe's eyes were dark brown, but not very 
dark." — G. H. Lewes. 

' Letter to G. H. Lewes, April 28, 1855, quoted in the Life of Goethe. 


An artist might well take for the subject of a picture 
this meeting of the two men, the one on the brink of 
the grave, renowned as poet and dramatist beyond all 
living men, the other on the threshold of life, not even 
dreaming of the greatness he was to attain. The 
author of '' Faust" doubtless did not discern any germ 
of the still unveiled talent of his young visitor, who all 
his life was to treasure the memory of this interview. 
'' My only recommendation," Thackeray once humor- 
ously remarked, "is that I have seen Napoleon and 
Goethe, and am the owner of Schiller's sword." 



THE TEMPLE (1831-1832) 

Thackeray a student of Middle Temple — chambers at No. 2, Brick 
Court — writes of the literary associations of the Temple — the Temple 
in his writings — loses money at cards — the original of Deuceace — 
chambers at No. lo, Crown Office Row — work and play — dislike of 
the law — goes to Cornwall to canvass for Charles Buller — comes of 
age — abandons the Law — goes to Paris — loses his patrimony. 

ON his return in the autumn of 1831 from his 
Wanderj'ahr, Thackeray entered himself as 
a student of Middle Temple, and though 
he did not look forward with pleasure to 
practising at the Bar, yet, as he wrote to his mother, 
he regarded the profession as "a noble and tangible 
object, an honourable calling, and, I trust in God, a 
certain fame." He read with the special pleader and 
conveyancer, Taprell, at No. i, Hare Court; and he 
lived at No. 2, Brick Court, and was pleased to recall 
the fact that his chambers had once been occupied by 
Oliver Goldsmith. 

I have been many a time in the chambers in the 
Temple which were his, and passed up the staircase, 
which Johnson, and Burke, and Reynolds trod to see 
their friend, their poet, their kind Goldsmith — the 
stair on which the poor women sat, weeping bitterly 
when they heard that the greatest and most generous 
of men was dead within the black oak door.^ 

^ The English Humourists — Sterne and Goldstnifh. 
I.— G 81 


Indeed, the literary associations of the Temple were 
an abiding interest to the great humorist of the nine- 
teenth century, and he was never weary of conjuring 
up the ghosts of his predecessors. 

The man of letters can but love the place which 
has been inhabited by so many of his brethren, or 
peopled by their creations as real to us at this day as 
the authors whose children they were — and Sir Roger 
de Coverley walking in the Temple Garden, and dis- 
coursing with Mr. Spectator about the beauties in 
hoops and patches who are sauntering over the grass, 
is just as lively a figure to me as is old Samuel 
Johnson, rolling through the fog with the Scotch 
gentleman at his heels on their way to Dr. Gold- 
smith's chambers in Brick Court; or Harry Fielding, 
with inked ruffles and a wet towel round his head, 
dashing off articles at midnight for the Covent Garden 
Journal^ while the printer's boy is asleep in the 

Subsequently Thackeray shared chambers at No. 10, 
Crown Office Row, with Tom Taylor, a fact duly com- 
memorated by Taylor at the time the building in 
which they were situated was pulled down. 

"They were fusty, they were musty, they were grimy, dull, 

and dim. 
The paint scaled off the panelling, the stairs were all 

untrim ; 
The flooring creaked, the windows gaped, the door-posts 

stood awry. 
The wind whipt round the corner with a wild and wailing 

In a dingier set of chambers, no man need wish to stow. 
Than those, old friend, wherein we denned, in Ten, Crown 

Office Row. 

^ Pendennis, chap, xxx, first edition. 


** But loe were young', if they were old, we never cared a pin, 

So the windows kept the rain out, and let the sunshine in; 

Our stout hearts mocked the crazy roofs, our hopes be- 
decked the wall, 

We were happy, we were hearty, strong to meet what 
might befall ; 

Will sunnier hours be ever ours, than those which used to 

Gay to the end, my dear old friend, in Ten, Crown Office 

"Good-bye, old rooms, where we chummed years, without 

a single fight. 
Far statelier sets of chambers will arise upon your site ; 
More airy bedrooms, wider panes, our followers will see ; 
And wealthier, wiser tenants, the Bench may find than 

we ; — 
But lighter hearts or truer, I'll defy the Inn to show, 
Than yours, old friend, and his who penned this Ten, 

Crown Office Row."i 

As Thackeray, when he turned his hand to fiction, 
sent his characters to school at the Charterhouse, so 
he utilised his knowledge of the Inns of Court to 
people them with fictitious personages. In Lamb 
Court were the chambers of Pendennis and Warring- 
ton ; and, near by, Mrs. Bolton and her daughter, 
pretty little Fanny, kept the gate of Shepherd's Inn, 
where Captain Costigan and Mr. Bows, when they 
followed "the Fotheringay" to London, pitched their 
tent next door to the chambers of Colonel Altamont 
and Captain the Chevalier Edward Strong. In Pump 

^ " Ten, Cro7vn Office Row." A Templar's Tribute {Punch, February 
26, 1859). 


Court resided the Hon. Algernon Percy Deuceace, 
who with his scoundrelly neighbour, Richard Blewitt, 
plucked that most unsuspicious simpleton, Dawkins, 
who lived on the same stair. The story of these 
Captains Rook and Mr. Pigeon was based upon an 
incident in Thackeray's life, for in the Temple social 
robbers eased him of a good round sum. 

When I first came to London, as innocent as 
Monsieur Gil Bias, I also fell in with some pretty 
acquaintances, found my way into several taverns, 
and delivered my purse to more than one gallant 
gentleman of the road. Ogres, nowadays, need not 
be giants at all. . . . They go about in society, slim, 
small, quietly dressed, and showing no especially 
great appetite. In my own young days there used 
to be play ogres — men who would devour a young 
fellow in one sitting, and leave him without a bit of 
flesh on his bones. They were quiet, gentlemen- 
like-looking people. They got the young man into 
their cave. Champagne, pate de foie gras, and 
numberless good things were handed about ; and 
then, having eaten, the young man was devoured in 
his turn.^ 

At a sitting Thackeray lost fifteen hundred pounds, 
probably in the manner described in the " Yellowplush 
Papers." Many years later he pointed out to Sir 
Theodore Martin a broken-down but gentlemanly look- 
ing man as the original of Deuceace. ''I have not 
seen him since the day he drove me down in his cab- 
riolet to my brokers in the city where I sold out my 
patrimony and handed it over to him." *' Poor devil ! " 
he added, with pity in his voice, ** Poor devil ! my 
money doesn't seem to have thriven with him."^ 

^ Ogres. * Merivale and Marzials : Thackeray, p. 236. 


I go pretty regularly to my pleader's and sit with 
him until half-past five, and sometimes six ; then 
I come home and read and dine till about nine or 
past, when I am glad enough to go out for an hour 
and look at the world. 1 

So he wrote to his stepfather in December 1831 ; 
but most of his letters refer to his pleasures rather 
than to his studies, and his diary is full of entries of 
visits to the theatre! of happy days spent with ''Old 
Fitz," at this time in lodgings in Charlotte Street, 
with Tennyson, or with Charles Duller, discussing 
the poets, upon whose merits they could not agree ; of 
pleasant strolls in Kensington Gardens ; of luncheons 
with friends, and dinners with an uncle, the Rev. 
Francis Thackeray, to whom subsequently he made 
appreciative reference, 

O saintly Francis, lying at rest under the turf.^ 

The young man was attached to his relative, and his 
only grievance against him was that this hospitable 
gentleman would ask him to dinner too often — three 
times a week — when his nephew would rather have 
spent an evening in more youthful society. 

The picture of those idle apprentices, Pendennis and 
"Bluebeard" Warrington, was probably drawn from 
the creator's life at this time, for doubtless, like them, 
Thackeray and Taylor, 

After reading pretty hard of a morning, and, I 
fear, not law merely, but politics and general history 
and literature, which were as necessary for the ad- 
vancement and instruction of a young man as mere 

^ Merivale and Marzials : Thackeray, p. 87. 

2 The Book of Snobs, chap, xi : On Clerical Snobs. 


dry law, after applying with tolerable assiduity to 
letters, to reviews, to elemental books of law, and, 
above all, to the newspaper, until the hour of dinner 
was drawing nigh . . . would sally out upon the 
town with great spirits and appetite, and bent upon 
enjoying a merry night as they had passed a pleasant 

Certainly Thackeray did not work hard, and his dis- 
taste for the legal profession increased. "The sun 
won't shine into Taprell's chambers, and the high 
stools don't blossom and bring forth buds," he lamented 
in the spring ; and in more serious mood he stated his 
real objection to the study of the law. 

This lawyer's preparatory education is certainly 
one of the most cold-blooded, prejudiced pieces of 
invention that ever a man was slave to. ... A 
fellow should properly do and think of nothing else 
than LAW.2 

Thackeray never overcame this dislike, and expressed 
it again years after in unmistakable terms. 

On the other side of the third landing, where Pen 
and Warrington live, till long after midnight, sits 
Mr. Paley, who took the highest honours, and who is 
a fellow of his college, who will sit and read and note 
cases until two o'clock in the morning ; who will rise 
at seven and be at the pleader's chambers as soon as 
they are open, where he will work until an hour 
before dinner-time ; who will come home from Hall 
and read and note cases again until dawn next day, 
when perhaps Mr. Arthur Pendennis and his friend 
Mr. Warrington are returning from some of their 
wild expeditions. How differently employed Mr. 
Paley has been ! He has not been throwing himself 

^ Pendennis, chap, xxxi ; (first edition). 
^ Merivale and Marzials : Thackeray, p. 88. 


away : he has only been bringing a great intellect 
laboriously down to the comprehension of a mean 
subject, and in his fierce grasp of that, resolutely 
excluding from his mind all higher thoughts, all 
better things, all the wisdom of philosophers and 
historians, all the thoughts of poets ; all wit, 
fancy, reflection, art, love, truth altogether — so 
that he may master that enormous Legend of the 
law, which he proposes to gain his livelihood by 
expounding. Warrington and Paley had been 
competitors for university honours in former days, 
and had run each other hard ; and everybody 
said now that the former was wasting his time and 
energies, whilst all people praised Paley for his 
industry. There may be doubts, however, as to 
which was using his time best. The one could 
afford time to think, and the other never could. The 
one could have sympathies and do kindnesses ; and 
the other must needs be always selfish. He could 
not cultivate a friendship or do a charity, or admire 
a work of genius, or kindle at the sight of beauty or 
the sound of a sweet song — he had no time, and no 
eyes for anything but his law-books. All was dark 
outside his reading-lamp. Love, and Nature, and 
Art (which is the expression of our praise and sense 
of the beautiful world of God) were shut out from 
him. And as he turned off his lonely lamp at night, 
he never thought but that he had spent the day 
profitably, and went to sleep alike thankless and 
remorseless. But he shuddered when he met his old 
companion Warrington on the stairs, and shunned 
him as one that was doomed to perdition.^ 

Delighted with any good excuse to absent himself 
from Taprell's, in June 1832 Thackeray eagerly ac- 
cepted an invitation to go to Liskeard to canvass for 
Charles Buller, who was intimately associated with the 
school of philosophic radicalism, the friend of Grote, 

^ Pendennis, chap, xxx (first edition). 


Sir William Molesworth, and John Stuart Mill, and the 
pupil of Carlyle, who described him as a " fine honest 
fellow, the greatest radical I have ever met." Duller 
had sat since 1830 for West Looe, Cornwall, but, this 
pocket borough having been disfranchised by the 
Reform Bill of 1832, he now offered himself as a can- 
didate for the neighbouring constituency ; and being 
unfortunately too ill to leave London, the task of 
visiting the voters devolved upon his brother Arthur 
and Thackeray. The young men worked hard, can- 
vassing farmers, dining with attorneys, writing 
addresses, and attending meetings ; and were re- 
warded by the return to the first reformed Parliament 
of Duller, who retained his seat until his death in 1848. 
" Isn't it an awful sudden summons," Thackeray wrote 
to Mrs. Brookfield, on hearing the sad news of his 
friend's demise. '* There go wit, fame, friendship, 
ambition, high repute."^ 

Who knows the inscrutable design ? 

Blessed be He who took and gave ! 
Why should your mother, Charles, not mine, 

Be weeping at her darling's grave ? ^ 

In Thackeray's diary there is an entry on July 18, 
1832, " Here is the day for which I have been panting 
so long " — on this day he attained his majority and 
came into possession of a patrimony that has been 
variously estimated at ten thousand pounds and at five 
hundred a year. 

I have been lying awake this morning meditating 
on the wise and proper manner I shall employ my 

^ A Collection of Letters of IV. M. Thackeray , p. 34. 

2 Dr. Birch and His Young Friends — The End of the Play, 


fortune in when I come of age, which, if I live so long, 
will take place in three weeks. First, I do not 
intend to quit my little chambers in the Temple, 
then I will take a regular monthly income, which I 
will never exceed. . . .^ 

So, from Cornwall, Thackeray of the good intentions 
had written to his mother, but these, like the earlier 
and equally praiseworthy resolves of boyhood, were 
soon abandoned, for no sooner had he attained his 
majority than he gave up even the pretence of reading 
for the bar, and went to Paris, where he spent some 
months learning to speak the language fluently, read- 
ing — and criticising in his letters home what he read — 
drawing, too, and, as a matter of course, frequenting 
the theatres. 

Thackeray returned to England in December (1832), 
and stayed for a while at Larkbeare before going out 
into the world to earn a living. A fortune yielding an 
income of five hundred a year is insufficient to support 
in idleness a young man with expensive tastes, and 
from the first Thackeray had realised he must work, 
not indeed for the necessaries, but for the luxuries of 
life. So long as it was for the luxuries only, however, 
he was unwilling to enter any profession uncongenial 
to him, and he had therefore abandoned his studies for 
the Bar ; but within a short time after he inherited 
his patrimony he lost most of it ; some, as it has 
been said, went at the card-table, and some to settle 
his debts at Cambridge, where he had spent a good 
deal of money ; and more in an Indian bank failure, 
that doubtless suggested the Bundelkund Bank incident 

^ Merivale and Marzials : Thackeray, p. 92. 


in **The Newcomes." An income, therefore, had now 
to be earned, and, since there were fewer professions 
then, and Thackeray would not read for the Bar, was 
too old for the army or navy, and was not attracted to 
the Church or to the study of medicine, there was noth- 
ing else open to him but the pursuit of art or letters. 
Great results spring from small causes, and it is ex- 
tremely probable that English literature of the Victorian 
era would be the poorer by Thackeray's works, if that 
author had not lost his money in the days of his 



Thackeray's thoughts incline to literature — becomes proprietor and 
editor of the National Standard — his contributions to that paper — 
the failure of the National Standard — the story of the venture re- 
lated in " Lovel the Widower" — he proposes to become a painter — 
and studies at Paris — his fondness for Paris — his first visit to that 
city — Eyre Evans Crowe and his family — Thackeray on the artist's 
life at Paris — abandons painting for caricature — "Flore et Zephyr" 
— offers to illustrate " Pickwick" — " Mr. Pickwick's lucky escape" — 
illustrates most of his own books — aware of the limitations of his art 
— Charlotte Bronte on Thackeray as illustrator. 

THACKERAY'S thoughts had often turned 
to literature, probably in the first instance 
thereto directed by the appreciation shown 
by his college friends of his contributions 
to the Snoh and Gownsman. At Weimar, besides con- 
ceiving the project to present Schiller in an English 
dress, the idea occurred to him to write for the English 
public a book on Germany and German literature, but 
he made not the slightest attempt to carry out these 
schemes ; nor did his acquaintance with ** Father 
Prout," Maginn, and Giffard of the Standard, inspire 
him to literary labours. Yet all the time the notion 
was at the back of his mind, and it needed but an in- 
centive to set him to work. Charles Duller wrote for 
the magazines : why not he ! he said to his mother. 
The idea was fascinating, but he was doubtful of his 



powers. How can a man know his capabilities, he 
asked very naturally and very wisely ; but in the same 
breath compared his untried talent with that of Duller, 
then at the zenith of his popularity. Even so did 
Benjamin Disraeli, seated in the Strangers' Gallery 
of the House of Commons, mentally measure swords 
with the parliamentary giants, and decide he could 
beat them all with their own weapons. But while 
Disraeli was from the start ambitious, Thackeray, 
until he lost his money, was well contented with things 
as they were. 

When the necessity for work arose, the opportunity 
soon presented itself. By a happy accident Major 
Carmichael-Smyth, perhaps in the hope to retrieve the 
losses he had suffered in the bank failure, and prob- 
ably also with the desire to give his stepson an 
opening in journalism, became connected with the 
National Sta^idard and Journal of Literature^ Sciencey 
Music y Theatricals y and the Fine Arts. This grandilo- 
quently named weekly was founded by F. W. N. 
(** Alphabet") Bayley,^ under whose direction the first 
number appeared on January 5, 1833. Exactly when 
Thackeray began to contribute to this periodical cannot 
be stated, but his first identified contribution appeared 
in the issue for May 4, about which time he purchased 
the paper. 

Under the heading of the National Standard of 
ours [so began Thackeray's Address in the nineteenth 
number, dated May 11], there originally appeared 
the following: "Edited by F. W. N. Bayley, Esq., 

^ Frederick William Naylor Bayley (1808- 1853), the author of many 
verses, novels, etc., contributed to the Times and the Morning Post ; 
and edited the National Omnibus and the Illustrated London News. 


. . . assisted by the most eminent Literary Men of 
the Day." Now we have change tout cela ; no, not 
exactly tout cela, for we still retain the assistance 
of a host of literary talent, but Frederick William 
Naylor Bayley has gone. We have got free of the 
Old Bailey, and changed the Governor. 

The difficulty under which Thackeray laboured all his 
life was to begin to work, but, this trouble overcome, 
the rest was easy. So it was at this early date that, 
once started as editor of the National Standard^ his 
activity was remarkable : he contributed to his paper, 
verses, drawings, stories, dramatic criticisms, trans- 
lations of poems and prose, editorial leaders, reviews. 
Not a tithe of the matter has been identified, and it 
would be waste of time to attempt to trace his writings: 
what is known may be taken as representative of the 
rest, and among this there is nothing remarkable, the 
verses are crude doggerel, the stories indifferent, and 
much of the criticism jejune. The last two lines on 
some verses on Louis Philippe, his earliest identified 
contribution, are, however, noticeable for the intro- 
duction of the word ''snob" used in the sense that 
had not then become common : 

He stands in Paris as you see him before ye, 

Little more than a snob — There's an end of the story ; ^ 

and the review of Robert Montgomery's ''Woman of 
Life" has a characteristic Titmarshian conclusion, for, 
after the quotation of fourteen lines from the poem, is 
a note : 

These are nice verses. On examination we find that 
the compositor, by some queer blunder, had printed 

^ National Standard^ May 4, 1833. 


them backwards ; but, as it does not seem to spoil 
the sense, we shall not give him the trouble of 
setting them up again. They are just as good one 
way as the other ; and, indeed, the same might be 
said of the whole book.^ 

Evidently Mr. Charles James Yellowplush saw this 
review, and was amused by it, for he emulated its 
humour when he was writing a scathing criticism of 
" Sawedwadgeorgearllyttnbulwig's " play, ''The Sea- 
Captain," and alluded to a sentence in that long-for- 
gotten play that he had tried ''every way, backards, 
forards, and in all sorts of trancepositions," and found 
" all which are as sensible as the fust passidge." 

Not long after Thackeray entered into possession of 
the National Standard a, an announcement: — 
"The Proprietors of the National Standard feel that 
it would be unbecoming to commence their second 
Volume without acknowledging the extraordinary 
success which has rewarded their labour ; success they 
believe unprecedented, the sale of their Journal having 
quadrupled in the short space of two months. They 
can now announce, with confidence, that the National 
Sta7idard is established." 2 It is to be hoped, for the 
sake of the editor's reputation for veracity, that this 
emanated from the fertile brain of the manager of the 
paper, for, as a matter of fact, the National Standard 
was at this time established on no firm basis : its cir- 
culation was miserable, and advertisements, without 
which no weekly can be financially successful, were con- 
spicuous by their absence from its columns. Thackeray 
laboured manfully and spent his days in "writing, 

^ National Standard, June 15, 1833. - Ibid., July 6, 1S33. 


puffing, and other delightful employments" for the 
paper, going frequently to Paris, thinking it looked 
well for the paper to have its special correspondent in 
that city. In September he told his mother that the 
National Standard was ''growing in repute," but, sad 
to relate, in a month the circulation rose only by 
twenty, and then, though he still believed the periodical 
would eventually provide him with an occupation and 
an income, he began to realise that the proprietor 
would probably be ruined before the venture paid its 
way. A last despairing effort to achieve success was 
made with the first number of the new year, when the 
price was raised from twopence to threepence, and the 
name altered to the scarcely less cumbrous title, the 
National Standard arid Literary Representative ; but 
in spite of the confident tone of the ''Address" in 
which these changes were announced, the issue for 
February i, 1834, was the last appearance of the 
National Standard, etc. 

There can be little doubt that Thackeray was thinking 
of his connection with the National Standard v^\\tn he 
wrote of the unfortunate newspaper venture in " Lovel 
the Widower." 

They are welcome ... to make merry at my 
charges in respect of a certain bargain which I made 
on coming to London, and in which, had I been 
Moses Primrose purchasing green spectacles, I could 
scarcely have been more taken in. My Jenkinson 
was an old college acquaintance, whom I was idiot 
enough to believe a respectable man : the fellow had 
a very smooth tongue, and sleek sanctified exterior. 
He was rather a popular preacher, and used to cry a 
good deal in the pulpit. He and a queer wine-mer- 
chant and bill-discounter, Sherrick by name, had 


somehow got possession of that neat little literary- 
paper, the Museum, which, perhaps, you remember ; 
and this eligible literary property my friend Honey- 
man, with his wheedling tongue, induced me to 
purchase. ... I daresay I gave myself airs as the 
editor of that confounded Museum^ and proposed to 
educate the public taste, to diffuse morality and 
sound literature throughout the nation, and to 
pocket a liberal salary in return for my services. 
I daresay I printed my own sonnets, my own 
tragedy, my own verses. ... I daresay I wrote 
satirical articles in which I piqued myself on the 
fineness of my wit, and criticisms, got up for the 
nonce out of encyclopaedias and biographical diction- 
aries ; so that I would be actually astonished at my 
own knowledge. I daresay I made a gaby of myself 
to the world : pray, my good friend, hast thou never 
done likewise? If thou hast never been a fool, be 
sure thou wilt never be a wise man.^ 

After the failure of the National Standard it became 
necessary for Thackeray in all seriousness to devote 
himself to a profession by the exercise of which he 
might support himself. Even when he was writing a 
considerable portion of each number of the National 
Standard^ his thoughts were wandering from journalism 
to art, and writing from Paris in July 1833 he in- 
formed his mother that he was ''thinking very seriously 
of turning artist." 

He had to come to London in August in connection 
with his paper, but two months later he returned to 
Paris, and settled there with the intention to study art. 
At first he stayed at the house of his maternal grand- 
mother, but, after a time, he found irksome the re- 
strictions of liberty imposed upon a guest, and rented 

1 Chap. i. 

1836] AT PARIS 97 

**a little den " in the Rue des Beaux Arts. There 
Planche saw him, and, describing him as ''a slim 
young man, rather taciturn " and " not displaying any 
particular love or talent for literature," noted that 
drawing appeared to be his favourite amusement, and 
that he covered any scrap of paper lying about with the 
most spirited sketches and amusing caricatures. 

Thackeray, who in London had probably attended 
Heatherley's school of painting — the "original" of 
Gandish's Academy in "The Newcomes " — at Paris 
studied under Brine, the well-known impressionist 
painter, and subsequently under Gros, who committed 
suicide in June 1835. 

Thackeray loved Paris all the days of his life, and 
those who hold the mistaken belief that he hated France 
and the French have no more reason to do so than 
those who assert that he hated the Irish ; if he pre- 
sented some Frenchmen as despicable characters, so he 
poured contempt on many Englishmen, and one of the 
most exquisite creations of his fancy is that most 
charming lady, Madame de Florae. Thackeray went 
for the first time to Paris in the Easter vacation of 1830 
to join Edward FitzGerald. 

I remember as a boy at the Ship at Dover {imper- 
ante Carolo Decimo), when, my place to London 
being paid, I had but 12s. left after a certain little 
Paris expedition (about which my benighted parents 
never knew anything), ordering for dinner a whiting, 
a beef-steak, and a glass of negus, and the bill was, 
dinner 7s., a glass of negus 2s., waiter 6d., and only 
half-a-crown left, as I was a sinner, for the guard and 
coachman on the way to London ! And I was a 
sinner. I had gone without leave. What a long, 
dreary, guilty four hours' journey it was, from Paris 

I.— H 


to Calais, I remember ! . . . I met my college tutor 
only yesterday. We were travelling, and stopped 
at the same hotel. He had the very next room to 
mine. After he had gone into his apartment, having 
shaken me quite kindly by the hand, I felt inclined 
to knock at his door and say, " Dr. Bentley, I beg 
your pardon, but do you remember, when I was 
going down at the Easter vacation in 1830, you asked 
me where I was going to spend my vacation? And 
I said, with my friend Slingsby in Huntingdonshire. 
Well, sir, I grieve to have to confess that I told you 
a fib. I had got £10 and was going for a lark to 
Paris, where my friend Edwards was staying." . . . 
The doctor will read it, for I did not wake him up.^ 

This was the first of many visits, and much of his 
leisure was spent in this city. He had a great number 
of friends there, and nowhere was he more welcome 
than at the house of Eyre Evans Crowe, the Paris 
correspondent of the Morning Chronicle^ the father of 
Amy, Joseph and Eyre. *'Once a week, on Satur- 
days, my mother received guests in the evening," Sir 
Joseph Crowe has recorded. **My mother at her 
evenings made everyone bright by playing Irish jigs 
or Scotch reels, or accompanying on the piano 
Methfessel's students' songs and choruses, the supreme 
enjoyment being a song from Thackeray."^ When 
the Crowes settled in 1844 at Hampstead, Thackeray 
frequently rode there on his short cob. ** Once in our 
drawing-room he was apt to forget the hours," says 
Sir Joseph; '* would stop to partake of an early 
dinner, though bound to join a later festivity of the 
same kind elsewhere ; and I recollect him now, as if 
it were yesterday, wiping his brow after trying vainly 

^ Dessein's. ^ Sir Joseph Crowe: Reminisce7ices, 


to help the leg of a tough fowl, and saying he was 
'heaving a thigh.' "^ Thackeray, always grateful for 
kindness shown him in the days of his struggles, was 
delighted later to be able to render the younger mem- 
bers of the family many good services. When, in 
1854, Charles Mackay asked him to go to the seat of 
war to furnish sketches for letters for the Illustrated 
News, he induced the editor to send Joseph in his 
place ; and on the young man's return, inaugurated 
a scheme for him to make money by lecturing on the 
war. Eyre was for a while the great man's secretary, 
and went with him on one of the lecture tours to 
America. "Six months tumbling about the world 
will do you no harm," he said to the young artist; 
and later he took Amy into his house, where she was 
treated as a daughter, until she married her host's 
cousin, now Colonel Sir Edward Thackeray, v.c, and 
went to India, where she succumbed to the tropical 

When Thackeray had been studying art for some 
months at Paris, he reported himself satisfied with 
his progress, and intimated his belief that in a year, 
if he worked hard, he might paint something worth 
looking at ; but he remarked naively that he would 
require at least that time to gain any readiness with 
his brush ! 

Until that happy day should arrive when he would 
be a full-fledged artist, he, to some extent, threw in his 
lot with his fellow-students, and thoroughly enjoyed 
the happy-go-lucky Bohemian existence ; albeit he 
complained of the impurity of the ideas of the French 

' Sir Joseph Crowe : Reminiscences. 


artists, and of the jargon of a corrupt life which they 
unwisely admitted into their painting-rooms.^ 

The life of the young (French) artist is the easiest, 
merriest, dirtiest existence possible. He comes to 
Paris, probably at sixteen, from his province ; his 
parents settle forty pounds a year on him, and pay 
his master ; he establishes himself in the Pays 
Latin, or in the new quarter of Notre Dame de 
Lorette (which is quite peopled with painters) ; he 
arrives at his atelier at a tolerably early hour, and 
labours among a score of companions as merry and 
as poor as himself. Each gentleman has his favour- 
ite tobacco-pipe ; and the pictures are painted in the 
midst of a cloud of smoke, and a din of puns and 
choice French slang, and a roar of choruses, of 
which no one can form an idea who has not been 
present at such an assembly. . . . How he passes 
his evenings, at what theatres, at what guinguettesy 
in company with what seducing little milliner, there 
is no need to say. . . . These young men (together 
with the students of sciences) comport themselves 
towards the sober citizens pretty much as the German 
bursch towards the philister^ or as the military man, 
during the Empire, did to the pekm : — from the height 
of their poverty they look down upon him with the 
greatest imaginable scorn — a scorn, I think, by 
which the citizen is dazzled, for his respect for the 
arts is intense.- 

Then as now Paris was the artist's paradise, for there 
more than anywhere else he was appreciated, under- 
stood, and well provided with schools wherein to study 
his profession. 

To account for a superiority over England, — 
which I think, as regards art, is incontestable — it 
must be remembered that the painter's trade, in 

' The Paris Sketch Book — On the French School of Painting. 
' J. K. Laughton : Memoirs of Henry Reeve^ Vol. I, p. 35. 

1836] PAINTING 101 

France, is a very good one : better appreciated, 
better understood, and, generally, far better paid 
than with us. There are a dozen excellent schools 
in which a lad may enter here, and, under the eye of 
a practised master, learn the apprenticeship of his 
art at an expense of about ten pounds a year. In 
England there is no school except the Academy, 
unless the student can afford to pay a very large 
sum and place himself under the tuition of some 
particular artist. Here, a young man, for his 
ten pounds, has all sorts of accessory instruction, 
models, etc. ; and has, further, and for nothing, 
numberless incitements to study his profession which 
are not to be found in England, — the streets are 
filled with picture-shops, the people themselves are 
pictures walking about ; the churches, theatres, 
eating-houses, concert-rooms are covered with pic- 
tures ; Nature herself is inclined more kindly to him, 
for the sky is a thousand times more bright and 
beautiful, and the sun shines for the greater part of 
the year. Add to this incitements more selfish, but 
quite as powerful : a French artist is paid very 
handsomely ; for five hundred a year is much where 
all are poor ; and has a rank in society rather above 
his merits than below them, being caressed by hosts 
and hostesses in places where titles are laughed at, 
and a baron is thought of no more account than a 
banker's clerk. ^ 

At this time Thackeray was frequently at the picture- 
galleries, copying pictures, at one time a Watteau, at 
another a Lucas van Leyden ('^a better man, I think, 
than Albert Diirer, and mayhap as great a composer as 
Raphael himself"); but he soon discovered it was 
extremely unlikely he would ever make any success 
as a serious painter, and this opinion his friend, Henry 
Reeve, who chanced to be at Paris, could not con- 

^ The Paris Sketch Book — On the French School of Painting. 


tradict. "Thackeray's drawings, if I may judge by 
his notebook, are as pure and accurate as any I have 
seen," said the future editor of the Edinburgh Review. 
" He is a man whom I would willingly set to copy a 
picture of Raphael's, as far, at least, as the drawing 
goes ; but he does not seem likely to get into a system 
of massive colouring, if I may judge by what he 
said."^ The subject of this criticism bore his dis- 
appointment philosophically, and soon after poked fun 
at himself: 

I wish you could see my historical picture of 
" Heliogabalus in the Ruins of Carthage"; or the 
full length of "Sir Samuel and His Lady" — sitting 
in a garden light, reading " The Book of Beauty," 
Sir Samuel catching a butterfly, which is settling on 
a flower-pot. 

About the time that Thackeray discovered he would 
never become a good painter, it dawned on him, or 
perhaps was suggested to him, that the sketches that he 
used to draw for his friends might have some commercial 
value. He found one Gibbs, a dealer who offered to 
try to dispose of his pen-and-ink drawings ; and he 
was fortunate enough to inspire a firm of publishers 
with the sense of the merits of a series of caricatures, 
entitled " Flore et Zephyr," a title probably suggested 
by a ballet of that name then popular at Paris. The 
sketches, eight in number, appeared in March 1836 
as the work of " Theophile Wagstaffe," though each 
drawing is signed W. T. (in a monogram). The little 
book attracted no attention at the time, but the cari- 

^ J. K. Laughton : Life and Correspondence of Henry Reeve, Vol. I, 
P- 35- 

1836] "FLORE ET ZEPHYR" 103 

catures are most amusing, and the grotesque attitudes 
and wonderful contortions of the dancers show that 
already the artist's sense of humour was well de- 

In the year that "Flore et Zephyr "appeared, Thack- 
eray thought to turn an honest penny by furnishing 
illustrations to books. A chance soon offered. Robert 
Seymour, the creator of the original design of Pickwick, 
had completed the drawings of the *' Pickwick Papers " 
for the first two or three monthly numbers when, in 
a fit of temporary insanity, he committed suicide in 
April 1836. His place was taken by Robert Buss, 
with whose work, however, the author was not satisfied ; 
and Thackeray, who in May was on a visit to London, 
hearing that a new artist was wanted, applied for the 
work, and met for the first time his great contemporary. 
Years afterwards, at a Royal Academy dinner, rising 
after Dickens to respond to the toast of Literature, he 
spoke of this offer, to the refusal of which he referred 
as '* Mr. Pickwick's lucky escape." 

Had it not been for the direct act of my friend who 
has just sat down, I should most likely never have 
been included in the toast which you have been 
pleased to drink ; and I should have tried to be, not 
a writer, but a painter, or designer of pictures. That 
was the object of my early ambition, and I can re- 
member when Mr. Dickens was a very young man, 
and had commenced delighting the world with some 
charming humorous works, of which I cannot men- 
tion the name, but which were coloured light green, 
and came out once a month, this young man wanted 
an artist to illustrate his writings, and I recollect 
walking up to his chambers in Furnival's Inn with 
two or three drawings in my hand, which, strange to 
say, he did not find suitable. But for that unfortu- 


nate blight which came over my artistical existence, 
it would have been my pride and my pleasure to have 
endeavoured one day to find a place on these walls 
for one of my performances. This disappointment 
caused me to direct my attention to a different walk 
of art, and now I can only hope to be "translated" 
on these walls, as I have been, thanks to my talented 
friend Mr. Egg. 

But though Dickens, who also rejected the offers of 
John Leech and " Crowquill " in favour of Hablot 
Knight Browne, would not accept Thackeray's aid, 
Thackeray subsequently found some authors more 
obliging, and he contributed, besides the illustrations 
to the little burlesques, "King Glumpus" (1837) ^^^ 
"The Exquisites" (1839), twelve plates to Douglas 
Jerrold's " Men of Character" (1838), and, for ;^20, the 
same number of coloured sketches to Charles Green- 
street Addisons's "Damascus and Palmyra" (1838). 
Indeed, in spite of the fact that he made no reference to 
the matter in the speech from which a passage is quoted 
above, to the end of his days he poured forth drawings 
in great profusion. 

Thackeray stands alone as a great author who illus- 
trated his own books. Besides contributing many 
hundred sketches to Pimc/i, he produced the designs 
for the "Yellowplush Correspondence", "Major Ga- 
hagan's Reminiscences", "Catherine", "The Paris 
Sketch Book", " The Great Hoggarty Diamond", "The 
Irish Sketch Book", " From Cornhill to Grand Cairo", 
"Vanity Fair", "Mrs. Perkins's Ball", " Our Street", 
"Pendennis", "Dr. Birch and His Young Friends", 
"The Kickleburys on the Rhine", "The Rose and 
the Ring", "The Virginians", " Lovel the Widower", 


and the *' Roundabout Papers."^ He had intended to 
illustrate ''The Newcomes," but eventually he aban- 
doned the idea. 

I have turned away one artist : the poor creature 
was utterly incompetent to depict the sublime, grace- 
ful, and pathetic personages and events with which 
this history will most assuredly abound. ^ 

Richard Doyle was entrusted with the task, and the 
two sketches designed by Thackeray were adapted and 
redrawn by the former. "He does beautifully easily 
what I want to do and can't," Thackeray declared, with 
characteristic generosity. Afterwards, however, he re- 
gretted he had entrusted the work to another hand, and 
when Whitwell Elwin expressed his admiration for the 
conception of the Colonel's face and figure, " Oh, yes," 
said Thackeray, "but I gave it to Doyle. I drew the 
Colonel for him." Thackeray found it troublesome to 
draw on the wood the illustrations for " Philip," and 
some of the sketches were made on paper and redrawn 
on wood, but not to his satisfaction. Frederick Walker 
was then engaged to redraw some of the sketches, but 
soon he declared himself capable of better work, and 
declined to continue the task ; so in the end the work 
was left in his hands with only written instructions or 
sometimes a rough pen-and-ink sketch by the author — 
the "Good Samaritans" (in chapter xv.) being the first 
illustration executed by Walker on his own responsi- 

All his life Thackeray preferred the pencil to the 

^ The " Fitz-Boodle Papers ", " Barry Lyndon " and " Esmond " alone 
among- Thackeray's works were published without illustrations. 
^ The Newcomes, chap. xv. 


pen. Often he found writing wearisome and the strain 
of composition irksome ; and there were times even 
when he almost hated the chain that held him to the 
desk ; but he always turned to the drawing-board with 
pleasure. "The hours which he spent upon his draw- 
ing-blocks and Sketch-books brought no fatigue or 
weariness : they were of endless interest and amuse- 
ment to him, and rested him when he was tired," Lady 
Ritchie has recorded. " It was only when he came to 
etch upon steel or to draw for the engraver upon wood 
that he complained of effort and want of ease ; and we 
used often to wish that his drawings could be given as 
they were first made, without the various transmigra- 
tions of wood and steel, and engraver's toil, and 
printer's ink."^ 

Thackeray was at his best when illustrating his 
writings, and there has rarely been an artist who could 
make his drawings so helpful to the text, for the charac- 
ters are as truly depicted by the pencil as by the pen, 
and they tell the story together. His drawing may not 
always have been correct, the perspective may occa- 
sionally have been wrong — "Some of my folk have 
scarcely more legs than Miss Biffin ; they have fins 
instead of hands — they squint almost every one of 
them! "^ — but for quaint fancy and humour his illustra- 
tions have rarely been surpassed. 

Take "Vanity Fair," and study the pictorial work from 
the opening initial " W" to the tailpiece, at the end of the 
last chapter, which shows the children shutting up the 
puppets in the box after the play is played out. Look 

^ The Orphan of Pimlico : Preface. 

^ A Grumble About the Christmas Books. 


1836] HIS DRAWINGS 107 

at the drawings on the cover of the monthly parts and 
on the title-page — the former portraying the jester, 
standing on the cask, haranguing the open-mouthed 
yokels ; the latter presenting the jester, lying on the 
grass, weary and worn, looking into a glass which 
reflects a countenance that is anything but gay. Look 
at Becky showing off her doll, " Miss Jemmy," to her 
father's rather dissolute Bohemian friends ; or, all 
alone, building a house of cards that, we know full 
well, will sooner or later fall, after the fashion of such 
unstable structures ; or fishing, and trying to hook 
stupid, hulking, conceited Mr. Jos; or as a governess 
in the schoolroom, paying just so much attention to 
her charges as might be expected from a lady with her 
turn of mind. Why, the slender thread of the story of 
Miss Rebecca Sharp might be reconstructed from the 
drawings. Look at Dobbin and Cuff fighting (in a 
capital C) ; or at Miss Eliza Styles (better known as 
Captain Rawdon Crawley) reading a letter from his 
wife at Mr. Barnet's, saddler, Knightsbridge, near the 
barracks ; or at Moss arresting Rawdon in Gaunt 
Square, while the bailiff's companion whistles for a 
hackney coach to convey the trio to the sponging house 
in Cursitor Street. Glance at the tailpiece to chapter ix 
— a delightful sketch of that sad jester Thackeray 
himself. Turn over the pages and, on the eve of the 
battle of Waterloo, compare Becky, slumbering tran- 
quilly, with Mrs. Major O'Dowd, as Venus, preparing 
the arms of Mars, her husband, who is sleeping 
soundly. Turn over again, and observe Miss Horrocks 
of the ribbons playing the piano with the sycophantic 
Hester by her side, all admiration ; and then glance at 


Sir Pitt nursed by Hester, the ill-conditioned bullying 

If space permitted, it would be easy to go through 
each of the novels and point out sketch after sketch 
delightful to regard. The "Christmas Books" owe 
more than half their charm to the plates. Take the 
portraits of Mr. Titmarsh and Mr. Mulligan of Bally- 
mulligan, of Mr. Flam, of Mr. Larkins ; of those 
famous literary lights. Miss Bunion and Mr. Hicks ; 
of Miss Trotter, whose face brightens at the arrival of 
the hideous but wealthy Lord Methuselah ; of Mr. 
Beaumoris, Mr. Grig, and Mr. Flanders, and a host 
of others, all present at "Mrs. Perkins's Ball." "I 
think that the empty faces of the dance-room were 
never done better," said Edward FitzGerald, who 
years earlier had been so pleased with Thackeray's 
fourteen little coloured drawings in his copy of 
" Undine" that he wrote to John Allen, asking if he 
did not think it would make a nice book to publish all 
the papers about Sir Roger de Coverley alone, with 
illustrations by Thackeray. "Our Street" contains 
all sorts and conditions of people duly sketched by 
the author, from the inquisitive old woman looking 
out of the window to "the lady whom nobody 
knows"; from "the lion of the street," Clarence 
Bulbul, who wrote the Mayfair love-song, "The 
Cane-Bottomed Chair," to "the happy family," in 
which plate is depicted the pleasant home-life of the 
Fairfaxes. The drawings of "The Rose and the 
Ring " which have delighted several generations of 
great and small children, were begun at Rome as 
Twelfth Night pictures for his children. Thackeray 


revelled in this labour of love : all his life he loved to 
amuse children, and to his fondness for the '' little 
'uns " he has left this abiding memorial. 

Thackeray suffered from no misapprehension as to 
the value of his gift, and he was well aware of his 
limitations. When a man in all good faith said to 
him, " But you c«;z draw," he set him down instantly 
— and unjustly — as a snob and a flatterer ; and Mr. 
Corkran found him fretting over a sketch : " Look," 
he said to the visitor, "now, Cruikshank, by a few 
touches, throwing some light and shadow here and 
there, would make this a picture. How it is I know 
not, but I certainly cannot do it at all." " My pencils 
don't draw like yours," he said prettily to Marcus 
Stone ; and, laughing at himself, he wrote in the 
'fifties to Edmund Yates : 

You have a new artist on the Tram, I see, dear 
Yates. I have been looking at his work, and I have 
solved a problem. I find there is a man alive who 
draws worse than myself.^ 

Cruikshank claimed Thackeray as a pupil. He 
taught him etching, and thought him clever with his 
pencil, though, he declared, " He had not the patience 
to be an artist with pencil or brush. I used to tell 
him that to be an artist was to burrow along like a 
mole, heaving up a little mound here and there for 
a long distance."^ Thackeray, indeed, was not ignor- 
ant of his lack of technical skill as an etcher, and he 
asked Henry Vizetelly to find him someone who would 
etch from his water-colour sketch the frontispiece to 

* Yates : Recollections and Experiences. 

^ Blanchard Jerrold : Life of George Cruikshank. 

" From Cornhill to Grand Cairo." The work was 
given to a young man named Thwaites, who subse- 
quently put on the wood a number of the drawings 
for ''Mrs. Perkins's Ball." 

I return the drawings after making a few altera- 
tions in them (Thackeray wrote to Vizetelly). 
Present Mr. Titmarsh's compliments to your 
talented young man, and say M. A. T. would take 
it as a great favour if he would kindly confine his 
improvements to the Mulligan's and Mrs. Perkins's 
other guests' extremities. In your young gentle- 
man's otherwise praiseworthy corrections of my 
vile drawing, a certain je ne sais qiioiy which I 
flatter myself exists in the original sketches, seems 
to have given him the slip, and I have tried in vain 
to recapture it. Somehow I prefer my own Nurem- 
berg dolls to Mr. Thwaites's superfine wax models.^ 

Vizetelly said Thackeray was almost as fastidious 
as Mr. Ruskin in regard to the manner in which 
his sketches were transferred to the wood ; and 
Thackeray once complained to " Practical John " 
Hollingshead : 'Tm not a first-rate artist, I know; 
but I'm not half as bad as those fellows, the wood- 
cutters, make me " ; and indeed much of the delicacy 
of expression was lost in the process. But though 
Thackeray lacked academic correctness and technical 
mastery, the undeniable originality and humour of 
his drawings will secure for them a very long lease 
of life and for him a high place in the ranks of the 
caricaturists. Charlotte Bronte thought "Thackeray's 
rude, careless sketches preferable to thousands of 
carefully finished paintings " ;2 and when the question 

^ Vizetelly: Glances Back Through Seventy Years, Vol. I, p. 283. 
^ Clement Shorter : The Brontes, Vol. II, p. 37. 


of an illustrator for one of her novels was raised, 
*' You will not easily find a second Thackeray," she 
wrote to W. S. Williamson March 11, 1848. '* How 
he can render, with a few black lines and dots, shades 
of expression so fine, so real ; traits of character so 
minute, so subtle, so difficult to seize and fix, I cannot 
tell — I can only wonder and admire. Thackeray may 
not be a painter, but he is a wizard of a draughts- 
man ; touched with his pencil, paper lives. And then 
his drawing is so refreshing ; after the wooden limbs 
one is accustomed to see portrayed by commonplace 
illustrators, his shapes of bone and muscle clothed 
with flesh, correct in proportion and anatomy, are a 
real relief. All is true in Thackeray. If Truth were 
again a goddess, Thackeray should be her high 
priest. "1 

^ Clement Shorter : The Brontes, Vol. I, p. 402. 


MARRIAGE (1836-1840) 

Major Carmichael-Smyth founds the Constitutional newspaper — and 
appoints Thackeray Paris Correspondent — Thackeray marries 
Isabella Getkin Creagh Shawe at Paris — works on Galignant s Mes- 
senger — happy days — " Bouillabaisse " — summoned to London to 
manag'e the Constitutional — the failure of the Constitutional — 
Thackeray and his wife stay with his mother — takes a house in Great 
Coram Street, Bloomsbury — the birth of his two eldest daughters — 
Bloomsbury in his books — the Foundling- Hospital — his fondness of 
children — the British Museum — "Going to See a Man Hanged" — 
his third daughter born — his wife's illness — the compulsory separa- 
tion — the happiness of his brief married life — his love for his 

THACKERAY, who had abandoned journal- 
ism for painting, and painting for cari- 
cature, was to revert to his first em- 
ployment. In the spring of 1836 he was 
summoned to London by Major Carmichael-Smyth to 
assist at the discussion of a project to establish a new 
radical daily paper, which should advocate the ballot, 
triennial parliaments, the complete freedom of the 
press, and religious liberty and equality. Joseph 
Hume, George Grote, George Evans, Charles Duller, 
William Ewart, Sir William Molesworth, John Arthur 
Roebuck, and other leaders of the advanced party pro- 
mised their support ; and the Metropolitan Newspaper 
Company was formed, with a capital of £60,000 in six 



thousand shares of ;^io each — £^ paid up — with Major 
Carmichael-Smyth as chairman. The Public Ledger^ 
a respectable paper with a small and ever decreasing 
circulation, was purchased, renamed the Constitutional 
{and Public Ledger)^ and the first number under the 
auspices of the Company appeared on September 15, 
1836, on which day the Stamp Duty on newspapers 
was reduced. Laman Blanchard was installed in the 
editorial chair ; to Thornton Hunt, the eldest son of 
Leigh Hunt, was entrusted the political department ; 
and, through the influence of his stepfather, Thackeray 
was appointed Paris Correspondent with a salary of 
£afxt a year. 

**That excellent and facetious being, Thackeray . . . 
has fallen in love, and talks of being married in less 
than twenty years. What is there so affecting as 
matrimony?" Henry Reeve noted in his diary on 
January 16, 1836. " I dined yesterday with his object, 
who is a nice, simple, girlish girl ; a niece of old 
Colonel Shawe, whom one always meets at the Stir- 
lings." ^ The " nice, simple, girlish girl " was Isabella 
Getkin Creagh Shawe, and Thackeray was married to 
her on April 20, 1836, the ceremony being performed 
at the British Embassy at Paris by Bishop Luscombe. 

Thackeray was at this time mainly dependent on his 
salary from the Constitutional^ but financial considera- 
tions were not regarded : he took the step fearlessly, 
and neither then nor later would admit its imprudence. 
Indeed, he was always an advocate of what the world 
calls improvident marriages, and his liking for Harry 
Longueville Jones, with whom he was *' working on 

^ J. K. Laughton : Memoirs of Henry Reeve, Vol. I, p. 5^. 


Galignani's newspaper for ten francs a day very cheer- 
fully," had its origin in the fact that that young man 
had "flung up his fellow and tutorship at Cambridge 
in order to marry on nothing a year."^ Some sixteen 
years later, when he had come to forty years, he en- 
dorsed the views of his youth. 

I married with ;^400 paid by a newspaper, which 
failed six months afterwards, and always love to hear 
of a young fellow testing his fortune bravely in that 
way [he wrote to William Webb Follett Synge]. . . . 
Though my marriage was a wreck, as you know, 
I would do it again, for behold. Love is the crown 
and completion of all earthly good. A man who is 
afraid of his fortune never deserved one.^ 

The young couple rented apartments in the Rue 
Neuve St. Augustin, not far from the offices of 
Galignani's Messenger in the Rue Vivienne : half-way 
between these places was No. 16, Rue Neuve des 
Petits Champs ("The New Street of the Little Fields"), 
occupied, as an old guide-book gives it, by Terre 
jeune, Restaurateur ; house noted for Spanish dishes, 
and for good wines, and more especially for the 
Marseilles dish, "Bouillabaisse." Here the newly 
married pair came frequently to dine, meeting many 
friends who also appreciated the cuisine. Many years 
after, when Terre was dead and Gillet reigned in his 
stead, Thackeray, alone, revisited the eating-house. 

Ah me ! how quick the days are flitting ! 

I mind me of a time that's gone, 
When here I'd sit, as now I'm sitting, 

In this same place — but not alone. 

^ A Collection of Letters of W. M. Thackeray, p, 36. 
? Merivale and Marzials : Thackeray, p. 240. 

1840] MARRIAGE 115 

A fair young" form was nestled near me, 
A dear, dear face looked fondly up. 

And sweetly spoke and smiled to cheer me 
— There's no one now to share my cup 

I drink it as the Fates ordain it. 

Come, fill it, and have done with rhymes : 
Fill up the lonely glass, and drain it 

In memory of dear old times. 
Welcome the wine, whate'er the seal is ; 

And sit you down and say your grace 
With thankful heart, whate'er the meal is. 

— Here comes the smoking Bouillabaisse ! ^ 

These happy days at Paris did not last long. Thack- 
eray's first letter to the Constitutional appeared in the 
issue for September 19, 1836, and neither this nor his 
subsequent contributions to the journal call for com- 
ment : their interest was purely topical, and the pre- 
dominant note, as readers of *'The Paris Sketch Book" 
would expect, a great dislike of the Government of 
July.^ Like the National Standard the Constitutional 
never attracted the public, and little good resulted from 
the announcement on January 2, 1837, that Grote, 
Ewart, Hume, Roebuck, Molesworth, Buller, and 
others ''do thereby engage to take in such newspaper 
for a twelvemonth at the least, and we recommend it to 
the support of our friends, entertaining similar views ; 
believing that such a newspaper is much wanted as an 

^ The Ballad of Bouillabaisse {Punch, February 17, 1849). 

^ Thackeray's letters to the Constitutional were collected by Mr. 
W. T, Spencer and published in 1899 in the volume, " W. M. Thackeray 
in the National Standard 'And Constitutional." They were included by 
the present writer in Macmillan's edition of the Collected Works, Vol. xi, 
" The Yellowplush Papers, etc," ; 1903. 


organ of Uncompromising Liberal Principles and that it 
will prove extensively useful to the interests of Reform 
everywhere." Thackeray's last letter from Paris bears 
the date February 15, 1837 5 ^"*^ immediately after this 
was despatched he, with his wife, came to London to 
attend a meeting called to discuss the affairs of the 
Company owning the paper, already in a very unsatis- 
factory condition. The contributors were unpaid, the 
correspondent in Portugal, sent out to report on the 
disturbances there, was destitute, and wrote letters 
begging for a remittance ; and Laman Blanchard, with 
a wife and five children to support, though writing 
articles every day, had not been paid for months. 
Thackeray, of course, could give little advice as to how 
to run a daily paper without funds and deeply in debt ; 
but, since to wind up the company spelt ruin, it was 
decided to make a call on the shareholders of £1 a share, 
and to make every effort to increase the circulation. On 
March i, the paper, which had been increased from six 
to seven columns on each of its four pages, was reduced 
to its former size ; but it dragged on an unprofitable 
existence until July i, when the last number (249) 
appeared with a black border for the death of the King, 
and an announcement, probably written by Thackeray, 
explaining the cause of the failure of the paper. 

The adverse circumstances have been various. In 
the philosophy of ill-luck it may be laid down as a 
principle, that every point of discouragement tends to 
one common centre of defeat. When the fates do 
concur in one's discomfiture their unanimity is won- 
derful. So it has happened in the case of the Consti- 
tutional. In the first place a delay of some months, 
consequent upon the postponement of the newspaper 

ll'/nre 'I'hachfrny nntf his iiu/c stnyeii with Major nuci Mis. Cai-itiichnct-Siiiyih in iS^f 

i84o] No. 13, GREAT CORAM STREET 117 

stamp reduction, operated on the minds of many who 
were originally parties to the enterprise ; in the 
next, the majority of those who remained faithful 
were wholly inexperienced in the art and practical 
working of an important daily journal ; in the third, 
and consequent upon the other two, there was the 
want of those abundant means, and of that wise 
application of resources, without which no efficient 
organ of the interests of any class of men — to say 
nothing of the interests of the first and greatest class 
whose welfare has been our dearest aim and most 
constant object — can be successfully established. 
Then came further misgivings on the part of friends, 
and the delusive undertakings of friends in disguise. 

So the Constitutional went down, and in the wreck 
was lost the greater part of the fortune of Major Car- 

When Thackeray and his wife came to London, they 
stayed for a while with Major and Mrs. Carmichael- 
Smyth at No. 18, Albion Street, Hyde Park ; but soon 
"work was abundant and the future promising" enough 
to allow of their setting up their home at No. 13, Great 
Coram Street,^ which runs from Woburn Place to Bruns- 
wick Square, parallel to the better known Guilford 
Street, which connects Russell Square with Gray's Inn 
Road. There was born in 1838 the Thackerays' eldest 
daughter, Anne Isabella, now Lady Ritchie, but still 
affectionately remembered as Miss Thackeray of the 
many charming stories ; and later another child, Jane 
who died in infancy. Readers of "The Great Hog- 
garty Diamond " will realise how deeply this loss was 

* In Great Coram Street at this time lived also, besides John Allen 
John Leech and Charles Keene. 


Bloomsbury had even then an old-world air and with 
its many interesting associations made a deep impres- 
sion upon the future novelist, who again and again 
introduced the neighbourhood into his stories. Mr. 
and Mrs. Samuel Hoggarty lived in lodgings in Lamb's 
Conduit Street, where Mr. and Mrs. Brough called in 
their splendid carriage and pair ; and it was in Hart 
Street that little George Osborne attended the school 
of the Rev. Laurence Veal, domestic chaplain to the 
Earl of Bareacres, who prepared young gentlemen 
and noblemen for the universities, the senate and 
the learned professions ; whose system did not embrace 
the degrading corporal severities still practised at the 
ancient places of education, and in whose family the 
pupils found the elegancies of refined society and the 
confidence and affection of a home. In Great Coram 
Street itself lived Mr. Todd, the junior partner in the 
firm of Osborne and Todd. Osborne lived in Russell 
Square, close by the Sedleys, on account of whose 
daughter he disinherited his son ; but it was easier for 
the old man to turn his son out of his house than to 
remove him from his heart, and when the young soldier 
died upon the field of Waterloo he erected a monument 
on the wall of the church attached to the Foundling 

The Foundling Hospital, a stone's-throw from his 
house, attracted Thackeray, always susceptible to the 
pleasures and sufferings of children. 

There's somethingf, even in his bitterest mood, 
That melts him at the sight of infanthood ; 
Thank God that he can love the pure and good. 

117/rjr Tliackcray nil,/ /lis n<i/c lirrd jSjj—lS^o 


Thackeray's love for children was one of his most 
pleasing characteristics. When James T. Fields, the 
American publisher, was one day mentioning the vari- 
ous sights he had seen in London, Thackeray, who 
happened to overhear him, broke in with, "But you 
haven't seen the greatest one yet. Go with me to-day to 
St. Paul's, and hear the charity children sing." "So we 
went," Fields has related, " and I saw the ' head cynic 
of literature,' the * hater of humanity,' as a critical dunce 
in the Tiines once called him, hiding his bowed head 
wet with tears, while his whole frame shook with 
emotion, as the children of poverty rose to pour out 
their anthem of praise. Afterwards he wrote about it."^ 

There is one day in the year . . . when I 
think St. Paul's presents the noblest sight in the 
whole world : when five thousand charity children, 
with cheeks like nosegays, and with sweet, fresh 
voices, sing the hymn which makes every heart thrill 
with praise and happiness. I have seen a hundred 
grand sights in the world — coronations, Parisian 
splendours, Crystal Palace openings, Pope's chapels 
with their processions of long-tailed cardinals and 
quavering choirs of fat soprani — but think in all 
Christendom there is no such sight as Charity Chil- 
dren's Day. Non Angli^ sed angeli. As one looks 
at that beautiful multitude of innocents : as the first 
note strikes : indeed one may almost fancy that 
cherubs are singing.^ 

And elsewhere he has written : 

To see a hundred boys marshalled in a chapel or 
old hall ; to hear their sweet fresh voices when they 
chant, and look in their brave calm faces: I say, does 
not the sight and sound of them smite you, somehow, 
with a pang of exquisite kindness ? 

' The Four Georges — George the Third, 


Thackeray delighted to play with children, to draw 
caricatures for them, and, above all, delighted to take 
them to the pantomime. There is a characteristic tale 
told of him, that he was once asked by Herman 
Merivale, whom as a boy he had invited to dinner at 
his club, if he remembered the occasion. *'Oh, yes," 
said the great man, ''and I remember what I gave 
you. Beefsteak and apricot omelette." The other 
was delighted that his host should remember even the 
details, and expressed his pleasure. "Yes," said 
Thackeray, twinkling in his inimitable way, *' I always 
give boys beefsteaks and apricot omelettes." 

Near Great Coram Street was the British Museum, 
and in the library Thackeray might often have been 
seen at work. 

Most Londoners — not all — have seen the British 
Museum Library. I speak a caeur ouvert and pray 
the kindly reader to bear with me. I have seen all 
sorts of domes of Peters and Pauls, Sophia, Pan- 
theon, — what not? — and have been struck by none 
of them as much as by that catholic dome in 
Bloomsbury, under which our million volumes are 
housed. What peace, what love, what truth, what 
beauty, what happiness for all, what generous kind- 
ness for you and me, are here spread out ! It seems 
to me one cannot sit down in that place without a 
heart full of grateful reverence. I own to have said 
my grace at the table, and to have thanked Heaven 
for this my English birthright, freely to partake of 
these bountiful books, and speak the truth I find 

Thackeray appreciated to the full the advantages of 
the well-conducted library ; and when Sir Anthony 

1 Nil Nisi Bonum. 


Panizzi asked him to give evidence before the Select 
Committee of the House of Commons, which was 
ordered on April 24, i860, "to enquire into the 
necessity for the extension of the British Museum," 
he replied that he would gladly come and say on 
behalf of the British Museum what little he knew — 
how he once came from Paris to London to write an 
article on a review about French affairs, and how, 
wh^n he went to the Bibliotheque du Roi, he could 
only get one book at a time, and no sight of a cata- 
logue. "But then I didn't go often," he added, 
*' being disgusted with the place, and entering it as 
a total stranger, without any recommendation."^ 

It was while living at Great Coram Street that 
Thackeray indulged a morbid desire to see a man 
hanged. Years before at Paris he had gone to see an 
execution, but by some mischance had missed the 
dismal spectacle. He was invited by Monckton Milnes 
"to make one at the Hanging" of Courvoisier, the 
murderer of Lord William Russell, in June 1840; and 
he accepted with some show of eagerness. It was 
customary then, when the execution took place at five 
or six in the morning, for the intending spectators to 
go eastward after a very late supper. 

You must not think me inhospitable in refusing to 
sit up. I must go to bed, that's the fact, or I never 
shall be able to attend to the work of to-morrow 
properly. If you like to come here and have a sofa, 
it is at your service, but I most strongly recommend 
sleep as a preparation for the day's pleasure." 

^ Letter to Panizzi, i860, in the MSS. Department of the British 
Museum Library. 

* Wemyss Reid : Life of Lord Houghton, Vol. \, p. 427. 


The scene made a deep impression on him, and he 
wrote of it with deep feeling : 

There is some talk of the terror which the sight of 
this spectacle inspires. ... I fully confess that I 
came away down Snow Hill that morning with a 
disgust for murder, but it was for the murder I saw 
done [he wrote after witnessing the scene]. This is 
the 20th of July, and I may be permitted for my part 
to declare that, for the last fourteen days, so salutary 
has the impression of the butchery been upon me, 
I have had the man's face continually before my 
eyes ; that I can see Mr. Ketch at this moment, with 
an easy air, taking the rope from his pocket ; that 
I feel myself ashamed and degraded at the brutal 
curiosity which took me to that brutal sight ; and 
that I pray to Almighty God to cause this disgrace- 
ful sin to pass from among us, and to cleanse our 
land of blood. 

Later at Cairo, when invited to witness a similar 
spectacle, *' Seeing one man hanged is quite enough 
in the course of a life," he replied, *' ^jy ai ete^'' as 
the Frenchman said of hunting." In **The Irish 
Sketch Book " he repeated the sentiments expressed 
in the Eraser article. 

I confess, for my part, to that common cant and 
sickly sentimentality, which, thank God ! is felt by 
a great number of people nowadays, and which leads 
them to revolt against murder, whether performed 
by a ruffian's knife or a hangman's rope : whether 
accompanied by a curse from the thief as he blows 
his victim's brains out, or a prayer from my lord on 
the bench in his wig and black cap.^ 

Nevertheless he eventually changed his opinion, and 
when someone praised his ''Hanging" article, "I 

^ Going to sec a Man Hanged (Fraser's Magazine, August 1840). 
^ The Irish Sketch Book, chap, i. 


i84o] MRS. THACKERAY 123 

think I was wrong," he remarked. " My feelings were 
overwrought. These murderers are such devils, after 
all." But though he ceased to advocate the abolition 
of the death-sentence, he never refrained from insisting 
that the ceremony should be performed in private. 

Thackeray's marriage was very happy, but unfortu- 
nately the happiness was not of long duration. His 
third daughter, Harriet Marion, afterwards Mrs. Leslie 
Stephen, was born on May 28, 1840; and shortly after 
he went to Belgium to collect material for a Sketch- 
Book.^ Mrs. Thackeray had almost recovered her health 
when he left her, but he was summoned home to find her 
*'in a strange state of languor and mental inactivity," 
which he at first regarded as a not unusual sequence of 
an illness that would pass away in course of time. He 
threw aside all work, sent the children to his mother, 
and took his wife to her parents in Ireland. Afterwards 
he went with her to Paris, where for a while she was in 
a maison de sante ; and later, hoping against hope that 
the cloud on her intellect would dissolve, for many 
months travelled with her from watering-place to 
watering-place, as the doctors as a last resource had 
recommended. At last Thackeray was compelled to 
realise that his wife would never recover sufficiently to 
undertake the duties of a mother and a wife. Though 
taking interest in any pleasant things around her, 
especially in music, she was unable to manage her life, 
and since it was essential she should be properly cared 

^ The Belgian Sketch-Book was never written, but Thackeray used 
his recollections of this trip in "Little Travels and Roadside Sketches" 
(Fraser's Magazine, May and October 1844, January 1845). 


for, she was placed with Mr. and Mrs. Thompson at 
Leigh, in Essex. She outlived her husband by so many 
years that it was with a shock, since she had already 
been dead to the world for nearly forty years, that the 
announcement of her death was read. She was buried 
at Leigh, not in the graveyard by the church, but in a 
cemetery farther inland. The memorial stone, sur- 
mounted by an Irish cross, bears the following in- 
scription : — 

To the Dear Memory of 

Isabella Getkin Thackeray. 

Born 1818, Married 1836 to 

William Makepeace Thackeray. 

She died at Leigh, January 11, 1894, aged 76. 

How sad, how awful, it was ! The man with his 
great heart, with his yearning for love and affection 
that, from this time forth, breathes through his letters 
and his books. To be separated from the woman he 
had chosen for his companion through life, and whose 
presence had cheered him when his fortunes were at 
their lowest ebb, and his reputation was yet to make ! 
How hard it was that she should be taken from him 
before she could enjoy the great fame ! How much 
he loved her, and how deeply he felt the blow that 
shattered his happiness and his home, he never 
divulged. He was not a man to parade his domestic 
sorrows : he might think of them in solitude, but if a 
visitor entered he would force himself to look up imme- 
diately with a smile and a joke. Once, however, he 
made a reference in a book, to his bereavement, in 
a note prefixed to a reprint of the fragment of **A 
Shabby Genteel Story." 

i84o] A SAD ENDING 125 

It was my intention to complete the little story of 
which only the first part is here written. . . . The 
tale was interrupted at a sad period of the writer's 
own life. The colours are long since dry ; the 
artist's hand is changed. It is best to leave the 
sketch as it was when it was first designed seven- 
teen years ago. The memory of the past is re- 
newed as he looks at it 

* * Die Bilder froher Tage 
Und manche liebe Schatten steigen auf." ^ 

"It was written," he said, writing of ''The Great 
Hoggarty Diamond," "at a time of great affliction, 
when my heart was very soft and humble. Amen. 
Ich hahe auch geliebty'^ " I was as happy as the day 
was long with her," he told a cousin after he had re- 
turned alone, and worse than alone, to the desolate 
house in Great Coram Street ; and one day when 
Trollope's groom said to him, "I hear you have 
written a book upon Ireland, and are always making 
fun of the Irish. You don't like us," Thackeray's eyes 
filled with tears as he thought of his wife — born in 
County Cork — and he replied, turning away his head, 
" God help me ! all that I have loved best in the world 
is Irish." 

Well might Thackeray echo the lines of poor broken- 
hearted Thekla's song : 

* ' Ich habe genossen das irdische Gliick, 
Ich habe gelebt und geliebet" 

Yet even in his bitterest moments he did not cry, 
with Thekla, 

" Das Hers ist gestorberiy die Welt ist leer^ 
Und weiter gibt sie dem Wiinsche nichts mehr" 

^ Miscellanies^ Vol. Ill, 1856. The quotation is from the Introduc- 
tion to Faust. ^ A Collectio?i of Letters of IV. M. Thackeray, p. 24. 


for even in his most bitter grief he remembered his 
children and his parents ; and set himself resolutely 
to work to make money so that when his children were 
old enough he could provide a comfortable home for 
them, dower them well, and, when he died, leave them, 
at least, a competency. 

From this time, more than ever, the thought of his 
children was the mainspring of most of his actions ; 
and whether at home or abroad, the " little girls " were 
always in his thoughts. 

And when, its force expended, 
The harmless storm was ended, 
And as the sunrise splendid 

Came blushing o'er the sea ; 
I thought, as day was breaking, 
My little girls were waking. 
And smiling, and making 

A prayer at home for me.^ 

*'I sat up with the children and talked to them of 
their mother," he told Mrs. Brookfield. " It is my 
pleasure to tell them how humble-minded their mother 
was." He took them to the Colosseum on their birth- 
days ; or the Zoological Gardens, where they amused 
themselves in finding likenesses to their friends in 
many of the animals ("Thank Evns !" is Thackeray's 
expression of gratitude, " both of the girls have plenty 
of fun and humour ") ; or went with them to the play 
" in recompense for their disappointment in not getting 
to the opening of the Great Exhibition, which they 
had hopes of seeing." 

Nothing in connection with the Cornhill Magazine 

* From Cornhill to Grand Cairo — The White Squall, 

i84o] HIS CHILDREN 127 

gave Thackeray so much pleasure as his eldest 
daughter's first contribution, ''Little Scholars." 
"When I read it," he said to Fields, '*I blubbered 
like a child. It was so good, so simple, and so honest ; 
and my little girl wrote it, every word of it." " I 
assure you that Annie can write ten times more 
cleverly than I," he declared enthusiastically to Dean 
Hole ; but the Dean tacitly declined to accept the 
assurance. When a friend expressed admiration for 
"The Story of Elizabeth", " I am glad," said Thack- 
eray, " but I can form no opinion of its merits 
as I have not read it." "Not read it," came the 
echo. "No, I dared not, I love her too much." 
When the Aihenceum attacked the book, Thackeray 
was very angry, and quarrelled with Jeaffreson, 
whom, erroneously, he believed to have written the 

For the sake of his children, Thackeray battled with 
his constitutional timidity, and nerved himself to deliver 
the two series of lectures — he, to whom public speaking 
was misery ; and solely on their account made his trips 
to America, hating the separation from them, and 
longing all the time of his absence for the day of his 

It is a painful subject to dwell upon, a picture of 
fearful sadness, this dreadful domestic affliction. His 
fortune lost, his talents unrecognised, his beloved wife 
taken from him ! Is it marvellous that Thackeray was 
able to see the existence of evil as well as of good in the 
world? Yet instead of embittering him, the great 
sorrow chastened his soul, and made his later writings 

^ The author was Geraldine Jewsbury. 


more sympathetic than his earlier ; and the only use he 
made henceforth of his great gift of sarcasm was to 
protest with gentle hand against the follies of his 
fellows, in the endeavour to indicate the path of hon- 
our, virtue, goodness and mercy. 


IN GRUB STREET (1837-1846) 

Writes for the Times — and for Fraser's Magazine — his earliest contribu- 
tions to Fraser's Magazine — the authorship of " Elizabeth Brown- 
rig-ge" — and the resemblance between that story and "Catherine" — 
" Fashnable Fax and Polite Annygoats" — Mr. Yellovvplush's other 
papers — strikes for higher pay — his qualifications as a writer for 
the periodical press — his knowledge of art and foreig-n lang-uages — 
sugg'ests himself for the editorship of the Foreigyi Quarterly Review 
— and as a contributor to Blackwood s Magazine — Sir Henry Cole's 
tribute to his powers — the Anti-Corn Law Circular — " The Pen 
and the Album " — writes for many periodicals — contributions to 
Fraser's Magazine — "The Paris Sketch Book" — "The Second 
Funeral of Napoleon " — replies to the Times' criticism of that 
book — "Comic Tales and Sketches" — "The Irish Sketch Book" — 
stays with Charles Lever at Templeogue — Thackeray on the Irish 
— the " Life of Talleyrand" — " Barry Lyndon" — " From Cornhill to 
Grand Cairo " — Carlyle resents Thackeray accepting' a free passage 
— Thackeray's reply — " Titmarsh at Jerusalem" — Thackeray's re- 
ligion — his indignation with Mrs. Trollope's interpretation of the 
Scriptures — his dislike of the Jews and the Roman Catholics — his 
attitude towards "Papal Aggression" — his attack on asceticism — 
his doubts of the infallibility of the Bible — his deep sense of religion 
— his fearless outlook on death. 

IT was mentioned in the last chapter that when 
Thackeray came to London early in the year 
1837 he found work in plenty : it is now ne- 
cessary to go back to that time to see what he 
wrote then, and where he published what he wrote. 

Mrs. Thackeray, it has been recorded, used laugh- 
ingly to say she laid the foundation-stone of her 

I.— K 129 


husband's fortune by introducing him to her relative, 
Thomas Barnes, the editor of the Times. Barnes 
employed Thackeray as a reviewer, and the young 
man's first identified contribution, a review of Carlyle's 
" French Revolution," appeared on August 3, 1837. 
"I understand there have been many reviews of a 
mixed character," the historian wrote to his brother. 
'' I got one in the Times last week. The writer is one 
Thackeray, a half-monstrous Cornish giant, kind of 
painter, Cambridge man, and Paris newspaper cor- 
respondent, who is now writing for his life in London. 
. . . His article is rather like him, and, I suppose, 
calculated to do the book good." This is the only 
article in the Times of 1837 placed to Thackeray's 
credit by the bibliographers ; but as, of the eleven 
contributions known to be his in the following year, 
six (filling ten columns) were printed in one month, 
the natural assumption is that he was writing regularly 
for the paper. Besides the review of Carlyle's book, 
the only other identified writings of Thackeray in 
1837 are: (i) "The Professor," a tale, in Bentley's 
Magazine for September, (ii) "Fashnable Fax and 
Polite Annygoats," and (iii) '* A Word on the Annuals," 
in the November and December numbers, respectively, 
of Fraser's Magazine. 

The mention of Eraser's brings us face to face with 
the unsolved question that is the stumbling-block of 
the biographers and the bibliographers of Thackeray ; 
When did Thackeray begin to contribute to this 
magazine, in which appeared the best of his early 
work? The subject is the more interesting because, 
more or less directly, it involves the question of the 

%» . ,^^ ♦^ //^ Cti^^-J 



much -discussed and much - disputed authorship of 
*' Elizabeth Brownrigge : A Tale," printed in this 
periodical in August and September, 1832. 

Dr. John Brown, in an article published in 1864, was 
the first person to attribute to Thackeray this parody of 
"Eugene Aram " ; ^ and then, after an interval, the 
same opinion was expressed by Mr. Swinburne : "Just 
before ' Catherine ' appeared another burlesque and 
grotesque horror — * Elizabeth Brownrigge,' a story in 
two parts, which ought to be Thackeray's, for, if it is 
not, he stole the idea, and to some extent the style, of 
his parodies on novels of criminal life, from this first 
sketch of the kind."- On the strength of the belief of 
these eminent critics, Mr. Shepherd reprinted the satire 
in a collection of Thackeray's minor writings, "Sultan 
Stork," and included it, without a query-mark, in the 
bibliography appended to that volume. A few years 
later Mr. C. P. Anderson gave it, also without a query- 
mark, in his bibliography of Thackeray ;2 and, more 
recently, Mr. Charles Whibley has expressed his 
opinion that there is little doubt it is from Thackeray's 
hand.^ In opposition to this view are Mr. J. P. John- 
son, who can see in it neither the touch nor the manner 
of Thackeray,^ and Mr. M. H. Spielmann, who is 
inclined to ascribe it to Douglas Jerrold on the ground 
that it resembles the work of that author in the turns 
of expression, the handling of sentences and the 
peculiarities of dialogue.'' Certainly Jerrold, who had 

^ North British Review. 

* Letter to Richard Heme Shepherd, printed in Sultan Stork, p. vii. 
^ Appended to Merivale and Marzials : Thackeray, 1891. 

* William Makepeace Thackeray {Modern English Writers), p. 28. 
^ Early Writings of William Makepeace Thackeray. 

® Bookman, April 1901. A Review of " Thackeray's Stray Papers." 


written the ^'Brownrigg Papers" in the Weekly Times, 
had, not long before the appearance of "Elizabeth 
Brownrigge," issued a similar parody, entitled "The 
Tutor Fiend and His Three Pupils." 

The present writer, in a work published ten years 
ago, stated his belief that Thackeray wrote "Elizabeth 
Brownrigge" (although when reprinting it in "Thack- 
eray's Stray Papers " he was careful to note that the 
authorship was doubtful). " The satirical * Dedication 
to the Author of " Eugene Aram " ' and the 'Advertise- 
ment ' seem to be quite in Thackeray's style," he wrote 
then. " Indeed, the whole story seems an immature 
'Catherine.'" This opinion was, of course, arrived at 
by a consideration of internal evidence, which is cer- 
tainly strong, as the following extract from the " Dedi- 
cation " shows : — 

From the frequent perusal of older works of imagina- 
tion, I had learned so to weave the incidents of my 
story as to interest the feelings of the reader in 
favour of virtue, and to increase his detestation of 
vice. I have been taught by "Eugene Aram" 
to mix vice and virtue up together in such an in- 
extricable confusion as to render it impossible 
that any preference should be given to either, or 
that the one, indeed, should be at all distinguish- 
able from the other. ... I am inclined to regard 
you as an original discoverer in the world of literary 
enterprise, and to reverence you as the father of 
a new ^^ liisiis naturce school." There is no other 
title by which your manner could be so aptly 
designated. I am told, for instance, that in a former 
work, having to paint an adulterer, you described 
him as belonging to the class of country curates, 
among whom, perhaps, such a criminal is not met 
with once in a hundred years; while, on the contrary, 
being in search of a tender-hearted, generous, senti- 


mental, high-minded hero of romance, you turned to 
the pages of the "Newgate Calendar," and looked 
for him in the list of men who have cut throats for 
money, among whom a person in possession of such 
qualities could never have been met at all. Want- 
ing a shrewd, selfish, worldly, calculating valet, 
you describe him as an old soldier, though he bears 
not a single trait of the character which might have 
been moulded by a long course of military service, 
but, on the contrary, is marked by all the dis- 
tinguishing features of a bankrupt attorney, or a 
lame duck from the Stock Exchange. Having to 
paint a cat, you endow her with all the idiosyn- 
crasies of a dog. 

In spite of the Titmarshian flavour of this and other 
passages, the present writer has, however, abandoned 
the theory that Thackeray was the author of "Eliza- 
beth Brownrigge." It has been said that the tale 
appeared in Eraser's Magazine in August and Septem- 
ber, 1832 : that is to say, it must at latest have been 
written in July of that year — in which month Thackeray 
went to Paris, immediately after he came of age. It is 
not to be denied that if Thackeray did write this, he 
had special facilities for bringing it to the notice of the 
editor of the periodical in which it appeared, for he was 
on intimate terms with the editor in question, William 
Maginn; but, on the other hand, if he did write "Eliza- 
beth Brownrigge" in July 1832, how is it that he did 
not follow up this ambitious start? It is true that 
several articles in subsequent numbers of the magazine 
are possibly by him, and a set of verses in May 1834 
are known to be from his pen : but not even Mr. C. P. 
Johnson, the most indefatigable of bibliographers, puts 
forward anything of equal merit until " Fashnable Fax 


and Polite Annygoats" five years later. Indeed, when 
'* Elizabeth Brownrigge " appeared, Thackeray had, so 
far as is known, written nothing but the trifles for the 
Snob and the Gow?isma?iy and, after it appeared, nothing 
of any importance until 1837 5 ^^ ^s scarcely conceivable 
that Thackeray should have written this clever satirical 
story, and then have fallen to the low level of his contri- 
butions to the National Standard. '' Elizabeth Brown- 
rigge " must not, therefore, figure among Thackeray's 

Though Thackeray may not have written " Elizabeth 
Brownrigge," it is practically certain that he con- 
tributed frequently to Eraser's Magazine in and after 
1834. Merely on the strength of the translation of 
Beranger's "// etait un roi d'Yvetot,'' which appeared 
in May of that year, it is highly improbable that even 
a friendly editor would have ventured in 1837 ^o 
commission the *' Yellowplush Correspondence" — for 
from the heading, **The Yellowplush Correspond- 
ence — Fashnable Fax and Polite Annygoats," it is 
clear that there was to be a series of articles by 
Charles Yellowplush, and, we know from a notebook 
of Thackeray, that these were written, as all his 
work was then and after, from hand to mouth. 
There is further proof that Thackeray was a contributor 
in the frontispiece of the magazine for January 1835, 
a picture by Maclise showing the principal writers for 
the periodical dining at the house of the proprietor : 
Crofton Croker, Lockhart, Hook, Brewster, Moir, 
D'Orsay, Allan Cunningham, Carlyle, Brydges, Gleig, 
Mahony, Irving, ''Barry Cornwall," Southey, Percival 
Bankes, Churchill, Murphy, Macwish, Ainsworth, 


Coleridge, Hogg, Gait, Dunlop, Jerdan, and, four 
seats from Maginn, our Mr. Titmarsh. 

What Thackeray wrote for Eraser's Magazine before 
November 1837 none now can say. He may have con- 
tributed the reviews of Whitehead's "Lives and Exploits 
of English Highwaymen " (March 1834), of " -^ Dozen 
Novels" including Miss Edgeworth's "Helen" (April 
1834), of Ainsworth's " Rookwood " (June 1834, ^"d 
again on the appearance of the third edition, April 
1836), Mrs. Trollope's " Paris and the Parisian " (Feb- 
ruary 1836) ; and the " Letters from Cambridge about 
the Art of Plucking" (June, July, August, 1836). "The 
Jew of York" (September 1836), and the reviews of 
James Grant's "The Great Metropolis" (December 

1836) and of Landor's "Satire on Satirists" (April 

1837) ni3.y be from his pen, as well as many other 
articles. It is sufficient, however, to assume that he 
contributed to the periodical, and that he scored his 
first great success with a review of " My Book, or, The 
Anatomy of Conduct," by one John Henry Sketton, a 
half-demented West-end linen-draper, who had con- 
ceived the idea that it was his mission in life to instruct 
the world in the true art of etiquette. This review, as 
all the world knows, was the famous " Fashnable Fax 
and Polite Annygoats," the first paper written by Mr. 
Charles Yellowplush, who dated his contribution from 
"No. — Grosvenor Square, loth October, (N.B. Hairy 
Bell)." To this, which appeared in Eraser's Magazine 
for November 1837, was appended a note, written by 
Thackeray, but initialled O.Y. ("Oliver Yorke," i.e., 
William Maginn), unaccountably omitted from most 
reprints : — 


He who looketh from a tower sees more of the 
battle than the knights and captains engaged in it ; 
and, in like manner, he who stands behind a fashion- 
able table knows more of society than the guests who 
sit at the board. It is from this source that our great 
novel-writers have drawn their experience, retailing 
the truths which they learned. It is not impossible 
that Mr. Yellowplush may continue his communica- 
tions, when we shall be able to present the reader 
with the only autheritic picture of fashionable life which 
has been given to the world in our time. 

Mr. Yellowplush did continue his communications : 
in January came " Miss Shum's husband" ; from Feb- 
ruary to July (with the exception of April) were narrated 
the adventures of Mr. Deuceace ; and in August the 
erudite footman made his " Ajew," reappearing on the 
scene after an interval of more than two years to criticise 
Bulwer's play, "The Sea-Captain." From the start the 
"Correspondence" attracted so much attention, that, 
after three instalments had been printed, the author, 
who realised the value of the papers to the magazine, 
felt justified in demanding, at the point of the sword, 
as it were, higher remuneration for subsequent contri- 

Now comes another, and not a very pleasant point, 
on which I must speak [he wrote to James Eraser, 
the proprietor, in February 1838, from Boulogne]. 
I hereby give notice that I shall strike for wages. 

You pay more to others, I find, than to me ; and so 
I intend to make some fresh conditions about Yellow- 
plush. I shall write no more of that gentleman's 
remarks except at the rate of twelve guineas a sheet, 
and with a drawing for each number in which his 
story appears — the drawing two guineas. 

Pray do not be angry at this decision on my part ; 
it is simply a bargain, which it is my duty to make. 


Bad as he is, Mr. Yellowplush is the most popular 
contributor to your magazine, and ought to be paid 
accordingly : if he does not deserve more than the 
monthly nurse, or the Blue Friars, I am a Dutch- 

I have been at work upon his adventures to-day, 
and I will send them to you or not as you like, but in 
common regard for myself I won't work under 

Well, I daresay you will be very indignant, and 
swear I am the most mercenary of individuals. Not 
so. But I am a better workman than most in your 
crew and deserve a better price. 

You must not, I repeat, be angry, or because we 
differ as tradesmen break off a connection as friends. 
Believe me that, whether I write for you or not, I 
always shall be glad of your friendship and anxious 
to have your good opinion.^ 

The sentence, " I am a better workman than most in 
your crew," shows very clearly that Thackeray was under 
no misapprehension as to the value of his support to 
Regina, as members of the staff were pleased to call the 
magazine ; and, if further proof is wanted, it shows that 
he must have been a frequent contributor for some time 
past, since he would scarcely have ventured, even on 
the strength of three instalments of the ''Yellowplush 
Papers," to take up an attitude so independent. Per- 
haps after some discussion, which would account for 
the absence of Mr. Yellowplush in March, the matter 
at issue was adjusted, with the result that Thackeray 
was a frequent contributor to the magazine for the next 
nine years. 

Thackeray's connection with Eraser's Magazine was 
invaluable to him in the early days of his struggle for 

1 Bookmart (Pittsburg, Pa.), April 18S7 ; Vol. IV, p. 446. 


bread, since he could rely on it to provide him with a 
certain, if small, income ; and if this periodical was 
useful to him, there is also no question that he 
rendered it yeoman's service. He had even at this 
time qualifications eminently calculated to attract 
editors : a pleasant, gossipy style, a practical ex- 
perience with the pencil and the brush that enabled 
him to write with understanding on art, and an 
acquaintance with foreign countries and their litera- 
tures, rare in a writer for the magazines, in a day 
when travel was expensive. Indeed, there were not 
many men who could have volunteered to review 
French and German books, as Thackeray did when 
Thomas Longman, the proprietor of the Edinburgh 
Review, approached him as a possible contributor. 

I hardly know what subject to point out as suited 
to my capacity — light matter connected with art, 
humorous reviews, critiques of novels — French sub- 
jects, memoirs, poetry, history from Louis XV down- 
ward and of an earlier period — that of Froissart and 
Monstrelet — German light literature and poetry — 
though of these I know but little beyond what I 
learned in a year's residence in the country fourteen 
years ago.^ 

It was this first-hand knowledge of the Continent 
that emboldened Thackeray in 1842, on the eve of his 
departure for Ireland to write a Sketch-Book for 
Messrs. Chapman and Hall, to ask that firm for the 
editorship of the Foreign Quarterly Review, which 
they had just taken over. 

If you have a new editor, as you will, no doubt, 
and unless you have a great man like Mr. Carlyle 

^ Letter in the British Museum Library. 


at the head of your undertaking, please to think of 
your humble servant, who is very anxious to have 
a calling and regular occupation of some kind, and 
could really, I think, do your duty very well [he 
wrote to Messrs. Chapman and Hall]. I know a 
couple of languages, French and German, and could 
know Italian in another month, having already a 
smattering ; and if your intention is not to have 
a pompous review, but a smart and lively one, I 
believe I should make as good an editor as another. 
... I need not tell you that I'm not so wedded to 
the Irish trip but that I would forego it for some- 
thing more lasting, or for a turn, say in Germany, as 
ambassador of the Foreign Quarterly?- 

The application was unsuccessful, for John Forster 
secured the post, but a perusal of Thackeray's contri- 
butions to the review show that here, too, his support 
was valuable.^ 

It was the accomplishments just enumerated that 
distinguished their possessor from the hack writers of 
the day, and were of great service to him at the 
beginning of his career ; though, once he had ob- 
tained a footing, his success was mainly due to the fact 
that he showed himself a master of the art of writing 
'*on subjects relating to society in general, where a 
writer may be allowed to display the humorous egOy 
or a victim to be gently immolated."^ 

This was the sort of paper he preferred to compose, 
and he sought an opening in BlackwoocTs Magazine. 

Some years back you used to have pleasant papers 
in Blackwood called "The World we live in" 

^ Bookmart, November 1885, Vol. Ill, p. 146. 

"^ These articles were recently discovered by Mr. Robert S. Garnett, 
who published them in 1906 under the title of " The New Sketch Book." 
^ Letter to Thomas Longman in the British Museum Library. 


[Thackeray wrote to Alexander Blackwood in 1840]. 
I should be glad to do something of like nature if 
you are disposed to accept my contributions. No 
politics, as much fun and satire as I can muster, 
literary talk and criticism of a spicy nature, and 
general gossip. I belong to a couple of clubs in 
this village and can get together plenty of rambling 
stuff. For instance, for next month Courvoisier's 
hanging (I'll go on purpose), strictures on C. Phil- 
lip's speech, the London Library, Tom Carlyle, the 
Times ^ and account of Willis that may be racy 
enough. If the project smiles upon you, as the 
French say, please write me word. I can't afford to 
begin and send the MSS. in advance, for if you 
shouldn't approve the design my labour would be 
wasted, as the article would be written for your 
special readers, and no good next month. ^ 

Blackwood would not have these papers ; and after 
" Maga," a little later, declined ''The Great Hoggarty 
Diamond " Thackeray wooed it no more. 

The young writer had a warm friend and eulogist in 
Mr. (after Sir Henry) Cole, who introduced him to 
Cobden for service in the Anti-Corn Law Circular. 
'* The artist is a genius both with his pen and his 
pencil," Cole wrote with enthusiasm. "His vocation 
is literary. He is full of humour and feeling. 
Hitherto he has not had occasion to think much on 
the subject of Corn Laws, and therefore wants the 
stuff to work upon. He would like to combine both 
writing and drawing when sufficiently primed, and 
then he would write illustrated ballads, or tales, or any- 
thing. I think you would find him a useful auxiliary."- 
Thackeray without delay followed up this introduction. 

^ Mrs. Oliphant : William Blackwood and Sons, Vol. II, p. 240. 
^ Sir Henry Cole : Fifty Years of Public Work. 


I shall be glad [he wrote to Cobden, for whom he 
eventually drew two sketches] to do a single draw- 
ing, series, or what you will, for nioney^ but I think 
the one you sent me would not be effective enough 
for the Circular^ the figures are too many for so small 
a sized block, and the meaning mysterious — the 
river, to be a river, should occupy a deuce of a space 
[here he introduced a loose sketch] — even this fills 
up your length almost. What do you think of 
a howling group with this motto : Give us this day 
our Daily Bread? The words are startling. Of 
course I will do the proposed design if you wish. 

Though it was to Eraser's Magazine Thackeray in 
these early years contributed most largely, he supplied 
drawings, stories, reviews, burlesques, and art criti- 
cism to all quarters where they were acceptable. 

Since he my faithful service did engage, 
To follow him through his queer pilgrimage, 
I've drawn and written many a line and page. 

Caricatures I scribbled have, and rhymes, 
And dinner-cards, and picture-pantomimes, 
And many little children's books at times. 

I've writ the foolish fancy of his brain ; 

The aimless jest that, striking, hath caused pain ; 

The idle word that he'd wish back again. 

I've helped him to pen many a line for bread. ^ 

Thackeray contributed to those short-lived periodi- 
cals, the Torch, the Parthenon, and the Britannia, and 
also, it is said, to the Globe ; he wrote on *' Paris Cari- 
catures " and on George Cruikshank's work for the 
Westminster Review^ on French and German literature 

^ The Pen and the Album. 


for the Foreign Quarterly, and on art for the Pictorial 
Times ; he drew political cartoons for the Anti-Corn 
Law Circular, and discoursed on French manners and 
customs in the Britannia and the Corsair (New York) ; 
to Bentley's Magazine he sent ''The Professor"; to 
Ainsmorth^s Magazine, "Sultan Stork"; to the New 
Monthly Magazi7ie, " Mary Ancel ", " Major Gahagan " 
and '* The Bedford Row Conspiracy " ; to Cruikshank's 
Almanacks, " Stubbs's Calendar" and ''Barber 
Cox"; and to the Omnibus, "The King of Brent- 
ford's Testament." With the exception of "Major 
Gahagan," however, his best work went to Eraser's 
Magazine, where, after the " Yellowplush Corre- 
spondence," appeared, besides many articles, "Cathe- 
rine" in 1839, "A Shabby Genteel Story" in 1840, 
"The Great Hoggarty Diamond " in 1841, the " Fitz- 
Boodle Papers " in 1842, " Men's Wives" in 1843, and 
" Barry Lyndon " in the following year. 

The publication of the "Yellowplush Correspon- 
dence " in Eraser's Magazine marks an epoch in 
Thackeray's literary life, because thereafter he was 
regarded as one of the best writers for the periodicals. 
Such attention as it attracted in England, however, 
was as nothing to the success it achieved in America, 
where it was pirated before it had run its course, and 
appeared in book-form without the " Ajew." 

The success of the "Correspondence" inspired 
Thackeray with the desire to offer some of his wares 
in book-form,^ and in 1840 he induced John Macrone, 
who four years earlier had brought out "Sketches by 

' The article on Criiikshank, signed " ^," in the Westminster Review 
for June 1S40 was at once issued in book-form anonymously. 

i846] FIRST BOOKS 143 

Boz," to publish a collection of articles and tales, 
more than half of which had appeared in the magazines, 
under the happy title of ''The Paris Sketch Book. 
By Mr. Titmarsh." The venture met with no par- 
ticular success, but its failure was not so complete as 
to deter Hugh Cunningham, Macrone's successor, 
from publishing 'Mn decent duodecimo" early in the 
next year, ''The Second Funeral of Napoleon," with 
which was included "The Chronicle of the Drum," 
which the periodicals had refused to print. Thackeray 
had gone to Paris with Monckton Milnes in December 
1840 to witness the ceremonies in connection with 
the interment of the remains of Napoleon, brought 
from St. Helena to rest in the Hotel des Invalides. 
The little book was practically still-born. With 
characteristic humour, the author wrote that his future 
was assured, since he received yhd. royalty, and if 
seven hundred and fifty thousand copies were disposed 
of, he would net no less than ;^3,i25. "One hundred 
copies have already been sold," he added, "so that 
you see my fortune is very clear." Eventually the 
sales rose to one hundred and forty and no more. 
Possibly an article in the Times may account for this : 
Thackeray thought the affair of the Second Funeral 
humbug, and said so, which brought the reviewer 
down on him. 

Disbelief in heroes is very offensive to the world, 
it must be confessed (Thackeray replied to the attack, 
in the bantering manner he affected towards adverse 
criticism). There, now, is the Times newspaper, 
which the other day rated your humble servant for 
publishing an account of one of the great humbugs 
of modern days, viz.^ the late funeral of Napoleon — 


which rated me, I say, and talked in its own grave, 
roaring way, about the flippancy and conceit of 

O, you thundering old Times! Napoleon's funeral 
was a humbug, and your constant reader said so. 
The people engaged in it were humbugs, and this 
your Michael Angelo hinted at. There may be 
irreverence in this, and the process of humbug- 
hunting may end rather awkwardly for some people. 
But surely there is no conceit. The shamming of 
modesty is the most pert conceit of all, the pre- 
cieiise affectation of deference where you don't feel 
it, the sneaking acquiescence in lies. It is very 
hard that a man may not tell the truth as he fancies 
it, without being accused of conceit : but so the 
world wags. As has already been prettily shown 
in that before-mentioned little book about Napo- 
leon, that is still to be had of the publisher's, 
there is a ballad in the volume which, if properly 
studied, will be alone worth two-and-sixpence to 
any man. 

Well, the funeral of Napoleon was a humbug ; 
and being so, what was a man to call it? What do 
we call a rose? Is it disrespectful to the pretty flower 
to call it by its own innocent name? And, in like 
manner, are we bound, out of respect for society, 
to speak of humbug only in a circumlocutory way — 
to call it something else, as they say some Indian 
people do their devil — to wrap it up in riddles and 
charades ? . . . Sacred word ! it is kept out of the 
dictionaries, as if the great compilers of these pub- 
lications were afraid to utter it. Well then, the 
funeral of Napoleon was a humbug, as Titmarsh 
wrote ; and a still better proof that it was a humbug 
was this, that nobody bought Titmarsh's book, and 
of the 10,000 copies made ready by the publisher not 
above 3000 went off. It was a humbug, and an ex- 
ploded humbug. Peace be to it ! Parlous d^autres 

^ On Men and Pictures {Fraser s Magazine, July 1841). 


The failure of *'The Second Funeral of Napoleon" 
deterred Cunningham from issuing a book by the same 
author, announced at the end of the other, as ** Pre- 
paring for Immediate Publication": ''Dinner Remi- 
niscences, or, The Young Gormandizer's Guide at 
Paris. By Mr. M. A. Titmarsh," whereupon Thackeray, 
too, abandoned the idea, and used the material he had 
collected in a paper, "The Memorials of Gorman- 
dizing."^ Cunningham, however, still had enough belief 
in Thackeray to issue, also in 1841, "Comic Tales 
and Sketches. Edited and illustrated by Mr. Michael 
Angelo Titmarsh," which contained the cream of 
Thackeray's already printed writings, the " Yellow- 
plush Correspondence", "Major Gahagan", "The Pro- 
fessor "and "The Bedford Row Conspiracy." These 
tales were accompanied by illustrations — the "Corre- 
spondence" having a new set in place of those that 
had appeared in Eraser's Magazine — and there was a 
pictorial title-page on which are depicted Yellowplush, 
Titmarsh, and Gahagan : "they are supposed to be 
marching hand-in-hand, and are just on the very brink 
of Immortality," so Thackeray concluded his preface 
to the volume : and there, on the brink of Immortality, 
they stand to this day seventy years later. 

Whether Cunningham would have no more of Tit- 
marsh, or Titmarsh would have no more of Cunning- 
ham, the fact remains that Thackeray, who never for 
a moment doubted he had "the right stuff" in him 
that must sooner or later achieve success, sought else- 
where a market for his manuscripts. He suggested to 
Messrs. Chapman and Hall that he should write a 

* Eraser s Magazhte, June 1841. 
I.— L 


book on Ireland, and, the firm liking this idea, he 
toured through the Emerald Isle in the summer of 
1842. Early in the next year the work appeared, not 
under the title of ^'The Cockney in Ireland," which 
the author told Laman Blanchard had been abandoned 
owing to ''the pathetic remonstrances of the pub- 
lishers,"^ but as " The Irish Sketch Book," and signed, 
of course, with the now familiar " Michael Angelo 
Titmarsh," though in the dedication Thackeray's name 
appeared for the first time in one of his books : 

Laying aside for the moment the travelling title of 
Mr. Titmarsh, let me . . . subscribe myself, my 
dear Lever, Most sincerely and gratefully yours, 
W. M. Thackeray. 

Charles Lever, it may be mentioned, was much 
blamed by some of his countrymen for accepting the 
dedication of a book that, according to them, was full 
of blunders and exaggerations — though Edward Fitz- 
Gerald wrote from Dublin : " It is all true. I ordered 
a bath here, and when I got in the waiter said it was 
heated to 90 degrees, but it was scalding ; he next 
locked me up in the room instead of my locking him 
out." Lever, however, ignored these attacks, and, 
confident that the author had no intention to misrepre- 
sent the Irish, reviewed the book favourably in the 
Dublin University Magazine, of which he was then 
editor. Lever was undoubtedly right in his belief, for 
Thackeray never desired to do more than poke fun at 
the eccentricities of the inhabitants of the neighbouring 
island. If he amused himself by exaggerating their 

1 Letter to Laman Blanchard, April 21, 1843 (•" Blanchard Jerrold : 
A Day -with W. M. Thackeray, p. 328), 

1846] CHARLES LEVER 147 

pronunciation, he did no harm ; and who can help 
smiling at the ''Lyra Hibernica"? 

The noble Chair stud at the stair, 

And bade the dthrums to thump ; and he 
Did thus evince, to that Black Prince, 

The welcome of his Company. 
O fair the girls, and rich the curls, 

And bright the oys, you saw there was ; 
And fixed each oye, ye there could spoi, 


The Gineral great then tuk his sate 

With all the other ginerals, 
(Bedad his troat, his vest, his coat. 

All bleezed with precious minerals) ; 
And as he there, with princely air, 

Recloinin on his cushion was. 
All round about his royal chair 

The squeezin and the pushin was. 
O PAT, such girls, such Jukes, and Earls, 

Such fashion and nobilitee ! 
Just think of TIM and fancy him 

Amidst the hoigh gentility.^ 

During the visit to Ireland Thackeray stayed with 
Lever at the latter's house at Templeogue, and when 
Thackeray died more than thirty years after, the other 
could still recall "with a heavy heart ... all our long 
evenings together — mingling over plans for the future 
many a jest and many a story." - Thackeray had read 
Lever's books, but Lever at the outset knew no more 
of Thackeray than he had learned from the letter of 

^ Mr. Molony's Account of the Ball given to the Nepaulese Ambassador 
by the Pejiinsular and Oriental Company. 

^ Letter to John Blackwood, January 1864 (in E. Downey : Life and 
Letters 0/ Charles Lever, Vol. II, p. 2.) 


introduction that the Englishman brought, and their 
relations were merely formal. At dinner, however, 
Thackeray told his host that he would rather have 
written Harry Lorrequer's rendering of the German 
student song, '''■ Der Papst leht herrlich in der Weli" 
(''The Pope he leads a happy life"), than anything 
he had himself done in literature. When Lever was 
convinced that Thackeray was sincere, he was very 
pleased with the handsome compliment, and soon a 
more cordial tone prevailed. ' ' Thackeray's conversation 
flowed more easily on the whole, like the deeper 
current of a river meandering through a cultivated 
country, and only occasionally quickening its pace and 
gathering force to dash over some well-selected point," 
Major Dwyer has written ; " Lever's, on the contrary, 
resembled a mountain torrent, leaping over rocks and 
precipices from pool to pool, in clouds of sparkling 
spray." ^ 

" Mr. Titmarsh" had for some time been known to a 
small and discerning section of the reading public, but, 
as it has been shown, "The Irish Sketch Book" was 
his first successful book : though a second edition was 
not brought out until 1845, the thousand copies of the 
first edition were soon exhausted. His new publishers 
were pleased, and they arranged that the first volume 
of a forthcoming monthly series of original biographical 
works should be " A Life of Talleyrand. By W. M. 

I will engage to write the volume [Thackeray had 
written to them on July 16, 1844], and to have the 
MS. in your hands by December i, health permitting, 

' W. Fitzpatrick : Life of Charles Lever, 


and will sign an agreement to that effect, if you will 
have the goodness to prepare one. 

This arrangement was first postponed in favour of 
another Sketch-Book, ^" From Cornhill to Cairo," and 
then, though Thackeray told his mother he had " read 
enormously " for the projected biography, it was 
abandoned in favour of another volume for which he 
was to be paid ^200. The " little book about the 
Mediterranean," as Thackeray referred to it, came to be 
written by pure chance. " Mr. Titmarsh " was dining 
at a club on August 20, 1844,^ and a friend told him he 
was going for a tour in the Mediterranean arranged 
by the P. and O. Company. The programme was 
alluring : "In the space of a couple of months as many 
men and cities were to be seen as Ulysses surveyed and 
noted in ten years " : Malta, Athens, Smyrna, Con- 
stantinople, Jerusalem, Cairo, were to be visited. The 
idea of beholding these famous places took possession 
of Thackeray's mind ; and when his friend suggested 
he should join the party, he wavered. 

Mr. Titmarsh considered all these things, but also 
the difficulty of the situation ; he had but thirty-six 
hours to get ready for so portentous a journey — he 
had engagements at home — finally, could he afford 
it? In spite of these objections, however, with every 
glass of claret the enthusiasm somehow rose, and the 
difficulties vanished. But when Mr. James, to crown 
all, said that he had no doubt that his friends, the 
Directors of the Peninsular and Oriental Company, 
would make Mr. Titmarsh the present of a berth 

^ In the Preface to the book, Thackeray, with characteristic careless- 
ness, gives wrong dates both for the conversation at the club and his 
departure : for July 24 and July 26 we must read August 20 and 
August 22. 


for the voyage, all objection ceased on his part : to 
break his outstanding engagements — to write letters 
to his amazed family, stating they were not to expect 
him to dinner on Saturday fortnight, as he would be at 
Jerusalem on that day — to purchase eighteen shirts 
and lay in a sea stock of Russia ducks — was the 
work of twenty-four hours. ^ 

Though this trip was an agreeable change to the 
busy literary man, it was not all holiday. He had to 
make notes for the book he had undertaken to write ; 
he was sending contributions to Punchy notably the 
''Travelling Notes "and "Punch in the East"; and 
he finished " Barry Lyndon," which since January 
had been appearing month by month in Eraser's 
Magazine. The last chapters gave him more trouble 
than anything he had done, and it was with a feeling 
of relief that he brought it to a close. He finished 
it at Malta, where the party was in quarantine, and he 
noted in his diary : " November i. Wrote ' Barry' but 
slowly, and with great difficulty." — "November 2. 
Wrote * Barry' with no more success than yesterday." 
— "November 3. Finished ' Barry,' after great throes, 
late at night." 

Though Thackeray worked hard, not only on " Barry 
Lyndon " and for Punchy but also on the drawings for 
" Mrs. Perkins's Ball," he enjoyed the tour and 
thoroughly appreciated the change from town life. 

It is worth while to have made the journey for the 
pleasure : to have walked the deck on long nights, 
and have thought of home. You have no leisure to 
do so in the city. You don't see the heavens shine 
above you so purely there, or the stars so clearly.^ 

^ From Comhill to Grand Cairo — Preface. ^ Ibid., chap. xiv. 


Thackeray returned to England in December (1844), 
and during the next year he wrote his account of the 
tour which, with his own sketches transferred to the 
wood by Eyre Crowe, appeared in January 1846 under 
the title of: "Notes of a Journey from Cornhill to 
Grand Cairo, by way of Lisbon, Athens, Constanti- 
nople, and Jerusalem, Performed in the Steamers of 
the Peninsular and Oriental Company. By Mr. M. A. 
Titmarsh, Author of 'The Irish Sketch Book,' etc." 

When ''From Cornhill to Grand Cairo" appeared, 
Carlyle made no secret of the fact that he thought it 
undignified of Thackeray to have accepted a free 
passage, and he compared the transaction to the prac- 
tice of a blind fiddler going to and fro on a penny 
ferry-boat in Scotland, playing tunes to the passengers 
for halfpence.^ Indeed, he felt so strongly on the 
matter that he voiced his objection in Taifs Edinburgh 
Magazine (March 1846). 

It is that comparison of the blind fiddler who 
^^ sends round his hat^^^ that ought to be devoted to 
the indignation of the press of this kingdom 
[Thackeray wrote in reply]. Your constant reader 
has never played on the English — or on the Scotch 

He leaves the sending round of hats to professors 
of the Caledonian Cremona. He was not " crimped " 
by the Peninsular and Oriental Company, nor called 
upon to fiddle for their amusement, nor rewarded 
with silver spoons by that excellent Company. A 
gentleman who takes a vacant seat in a friend's 
carriage is not supposed to receive a degrading 
obligation, or called upon to pay for his ride by 
extra joking, facetiousness, etc. ; nor surely is the 
person who so gives you the use of his carriage 

^ Sir Charles Gavan Duffy : Conversations 7vith Carlyle. 


required to present you also with a guinea or to 
pay your tavern bill. The critic, in fact, has shown 
uncommon keenness in observing the manners of 
his national violinist ; but must know more of them 
than of the customs of English gentlemen. 

If the critic himself is a man of letters and fiddles 
professionally, why should he abuse his Stradivarius? 
If he is some disguised nobleman of lofty birth, 
superb breeding, and vast wealth, who only fiddles 
for pleasure, he should spare those gentlefolks in 
whose company he condescends to perform. But I 
don't believe he's a noble amateur — I think he must 
be a professional man of letters. It is only literary 
men nowadays who commit this suicidal sort of im- 
pertinence ; who sneak through the world ashamed 
of their calling, and show their independence by 
befouling the trade by which they live.^ 

Thackeray was made very angry by the attack, as 
can be seen from the vigour of his rebuke, and his 
subsequent reference to it in a Postscript added to the 
book when a second edition was called for in August. 
Though his friend Charles Duller told Thackeray he 
agreed with Carlyle, and that it was also his opinion 
that " Mr. Titmarsh " ought not to have gone fiddling 
for halfpence or otherwise in any steamboat under the 
sun,- it is not easy to see why all this virtuous 
indignation and anxiety was felt for the dignity of 
Thackeray and the literary profession ; for not only did 
the latter not "puff "the Company, but, as he said, the 
free passage was given to him not by the Company 
but by one of his friends. 

''Titmarsh at Jerusalem will certainly be an era 
in Christianity," Edward FitzGerald had said when 

1 Punch, March 14, 1846. 

^ Sir Charles Gavan Duffy : Conversations with Carlyle. 


Thackeray went ''From Cornhill to Grand Cairo." 
But Jerusalem did not arouse any feeling of mockery 
in the traveller, who, since there was no false senti- 
ment to excite his satire, was much moved at the sight 
of the city of many traditions. 

From this terrace [he wrote at Jerusalem], whence 
we looked in the morning, a great part of the 
city spread before us : — white domes upon domes, 
and terraces of the same character as our own. Here 
and there, from among these whitewashed mounds 
round about, a minaret rose, or a rare date-tree ; but 
the chief part of the vegetation near was that odious 
tree, the prickly pear, — one huge green wart growing 
out of another, armed with spikes, as inhospitable as 
the aloe, without shelter or beauty. To the right 
the Mosque of Omar rose ; the rising sun behind it. 
Yonder steep tortuous lane before us, flanked by 
ruined walls on either side, has borne, time out of 
mind, the title of Via Dolorosa ; and tradition has 
fixed the spots where the Saviour rested, bearing His 
cross to Calvary. But of the mountain, rising imme- 
diately in front of us, a few grey olive-trees speck- 
ling the yellow side here and there, there can be no 
question. That is the Mount of Olives. Bethany lies 
beyond it. The most sacred eyes that ever looked 
on this world, have gazed on those ridges ; it was 
there He used to walk and teach. With shame and 
humility one looks towards the spot where that in- 
expressible Love and Benevolence lived and breathed ; 
where the great yearning heart of the Saviour inter- 
ceded for all our race ; and whence the bigots and 
traitors of His day led Him away to kill Him.^ 

Religion was much in Thackeray's thoughts, though 
there is little mention of it in his books. 

' ' O awful name of God ! Light unbearable ! Mystery 
unfathomable! Vastness immeasurable!" he exclaimed 

^ From Cornhill to Grand Cairo, chap. xiii. 

in a white heat of indignation, when writing of 
''Madame Sand and the New Apocalypse"; and he 
was as angry with Mrs. Trollope, who in her novel, 
" The Vicar of Wrexhill," fulminated against those 
who interpreted the Scriptures in other ways than she. 

Mrs. Trollope . . . who sees so keenly the follies 
of the other party — how much vanity there is in Bible 
Meetings — how much sin even at Missionary Societies 
—how much cant and hypocrisy there is among those 
who desecrate the awful name of God by mixing it up 
with their mean private interests and petty projects — 
Mrs. Trollope cannot see that there is any hypocrisy 
or bigotry on her part. She, who designates the rival 
party as false, and wicked, and vain, tracing all their 
actions to the basest motives, declaring their worship 
of God to be only one general hypocrisy, their con- 
duct at home one fearful scene of crime, is blind to 
the faults on her own side. Always bitter against 
the Pharisees, she does as the Pharisees do. It is 
vanity, very likely, which leads these people to use 
God's name so often, and to devote all to perdition 
who do not coincide with their peculiar notions. Is 
Mrs. Trollope less vain than they are when she de- 
clares, and merely declares^ her own to be the real 
creed, and stigmatises its rival so fiercely? Is Mrs. 
Trollope serving God, in making abusive and licen- 
tious pictures of those who serve Him in a different 
way? Once, as Mrs. Trollope has read — it was a 
long time ago ! — there was a woman taken in sin ; 
people brought her before a great Teacher of Truth, 
who lived in those days. "Shall we not kill her?" 
said they; "the law commands that all adultresses 
shall be killed." 

We can fancy a Mrs. Trollope in the crowd, shout- 
ing, " Oh, the wretch ! Oh, the abominable harlot ! 
Kill her, by all means — stoning is really too good for 
her!" But what did the Divine Teacher say? He 
was quite as anxious to prevent the crime as any Mrs. 
Trollope of them all ; but He did not make any 


allusion to it. He did not describe the manner in 
which the poor creature was caught, He made no 
speech to detail the indecencies which she had com- 
mitted, or to raise the fury of the mob against her. 
He said, "Let the man who is without sin himself 
throw the first stone ! " Whereupon the Pharisees 
and Mrs. Trollopes slunk away, for they knew they 
were no better than she. There was as great a sin in 
His eyes as that of the poor erring woman, — it was 
the sin of pride. ^ 

Though Thackeray attacked Mrs. Trollope on the 
score of narrow-mindedness, it must be admitted that 
he was not always very tolerant of those whose religious 
beliefs differed from his own. His dislike of the Jews, 
of whom he always wrote with contempt, was based 
upon his objection to the race rather than to their 
religion, of which latter, indeed, he never spoke ; but 
the Roman Catholics he despised, not as individuals, 
but because of their religion, and he wrote of that with 
great harshness. 

I once went into a church at Rome at the request 
of a Catholic friend, who declared the interior to be 
so beautiful and glorious, that he thought (he said) it 
must be like Heaven itself. I found walls hung with 
cheap strips of pink and white calico, altars covered 
with artificial flowers, a number of wax candles, and 
plenty of gilt paper ornaments. The place seemed to 
me like a shabby theatre ; and here was my friend on 
his knees at my side, plunged in a rapture of wonder 
and devotion. I could get no better impression out 
of this most famous Church in the world. The 

^ Our Batch of Novels for Deceynber i8jy (Fraser's Magazine, January 
1838). Shortly after Thackeray had written this article he was invited 
to a dinner-party at which Mrs. Trollope would be present. " Oh, by 
Jove! I can't come," he exclaimed. "I've just cut up her ' Vicar of 
Wrexhill' in a review. I think she tells lies." (Richard Bedingfield : 
Recollections ef Thackeray. ) 


deceits are too open and flagrant : the inconsistencies 
and contrivances too monstrous. It is hard even to 
sympathise with persons who receive them as genuine ; 
and though (as I know and saw in the case of my 
friend at Rome) the believer's life may be passed in 
the purest exercise of faith and charity, it is difficult 
even to give him credit for honesty, so barefaced 
seem to be the impostures which he professes to 
believe and reverence. It costs one no small effort 
even to admit the possibility of a Catholic's credulity : 
to share in his rapture and devotion is still further 
out of your power ; and I could get from this church 
no other emotion but those of shame and pain ! ^ 

In the columns of Punch he appeared in active opposi- 
tion to the "Papal Aggression," though according to 
Sir Francis Burnand, he had little knowledge of the 
subject, and subsequently expressed his regret that he 
had taken part in the attack. 

When Thackeray was at Brighton he went to hear 
a sermon by the Rev. Joseph Sortain, the incumbent of 
the Countess of Huntingdon's Chapel, upon which he 
commented : 

It was about the origin of nations he spoke, one of 
those big themes on which a man can talk eternally 
and with a never ending outpouring of words ; and he 
talked magnificently, about the Arabs for the most 
part, and tried to prove that because the Arabs 
acknowledged their descent from Ishmael or Esau, 
therefore the Old Testament History was true. But 
the Arabs may have had Esau for a father, and yet 
the bears may not have eaten up the little children for 
quizzing Elisha's bald head.- 

Thackeray, indeed, had some doubts as to the in- 
fallibility of the Bible, and when Richard Bedingfield 

^ From Cornhill to Grand Cairo, chap. xiii. 

^ A Collection of Letters of W. M. Thackeray, p. 35. 

1846] RELIGION 157 

mentioned Thomas Cooper's lecture on Christ, "Oh, 
Cooper, the Chartist! "he rejoined. "I suppose he 
only makes Christ a reformer ! / dofi't knoiv what to 
think ! " But such expressions were rare with him, and 
it seems certain that if he sometimes felt he could not 
accept the letter of the Bible, he never ceased to believe 
in its spirit. "One Sunday evening in December," 
Dr. John Brown has recorded, "Thackeray was walk- 
ing with two friends along the Dean Road, to the west 
of Edinburgh — one of the noblest outlets to any city. 
It was a lovely evening ; such a sunset as one never 
forgets ; a rich dark bar of cloud hovered over the sky, 
going down behind the Highland hills, lying bathed 
in amethystine bloom; between this cloud and the hills 
there was a narrow strip of the pure ether of a tender 
cowslip colour, lucid, and as if it were the very body of 
heaven in its clearness ; every object standing out as 
if etched upon the sky. The north-west end of the 
Corstorphine Hill, with its trees and rocks, lay in the 
heart of this pure radiance, and there a wooden crane, 
used in the granary below, was so placed as to assume 
the figure of a cross ; there it was, unmistakably lifted 
up against the crystalline sky. All three gazed at it 
silently. As they gazed, Thackeray gave utterance in a 
tremulous, gentle, and rapid voice, to what all were 
feeling, in the word * Calvary ! ' The friends walked 
on in silence, and then turned to other things. All 
that evening he was very gentle and serious, speaking 
as he seldom did, of divine things — of death, of sin, 
of eternity, of salvation, expressing his simple faith in 
God and in his Saviour."^ 

^ Thackeray (North British Review, February 1864). 


Like all true men, he had no fear of death, and 
again and again he expressed his conviction that 
sympathy was needed not for those who had gone 
before but for those who remained. 

Where can a good and pious man be better than in 
the presence of God? away from ill, and temptation, 
and care, and secure of reward [he said in a letter of 
condolence written to Miss Charlotte Low in 1849]. 
What a comfort it is to think that he, who was so good 
and faithful here, must be called away to live among 
the good and just for ever ! There never seems to me 
any cause for grief at the thought of a good man 
dying, beyond the sorrow for those who survive him, 
and trusting in God's mercy and wisdom, infinite here 
and everywhere, await the day when they too shall 
be called away.^ 

^ Canon Irvine : A Study for Colonel Neivcome (Nineteenth Century, 
October 1893). 


The savagery of criticism in the earlier decades of the nineteenth century 
— Thackeray's papers on art — his outspokenness — and the anger of 
the painters — his opinions of "Christian" or "Catholic" art — and 
of the historical school of painting — his appreciation of "The Fight- 
ing T^m^raire " — and of George Cruikshank — miscellaneous criticism 
of books — on Byron — on the annuals — his attack on Ainsworth — 
his explanation — on the Newgate school of fiction — "Catherine" — 
its purpose — and the author's criticism of his book — his savage 
attacks on Bulwer-Lytton — and his subsequent cry of "Peccavi" — 
"Mr. Yellowplush's Ajew" — his appreciation of some contemporary 
writers — Scott and Dumas his favourite novelists — his opinions of 
Swift, Sterne, Addison, Steele, Goldsmith, Prior and Gay — of Smol- 
lett and Fielding — his love for kindly writers — and happy endings. 

IN the late thirties and forties of the last 
century, when Thackeray was a reviewer, the 
most noticeable feature of contemporary criti- 
cism was savagery. Party spirit ran high, and 
a Tory had as little chance of obtaining justice at the 
hands of the pundits of the Edinburgh Review as a 
Whig of receiving commendation from the writers of 
the Quarterly RevieWy Black-wood" s or Eraser's Maga- 
zine. "You have called Hazlitt pimpled, affected, 
ignorant, a Cockney scribbler, etc.," Maginn wrote to 
William Blackwood in 1823; "but what is that to 
what he has said to the most brilliant men of the 
age? Hook-nosed Wellington, vulture-beaked Southey, 



hanging-browed Croker, down-looking Jack Murray, 
and Mudford fat as fleecy hosiery." If HazHtt led the 
way, Macaulay and Croker, Lockhart and Maginn 
were not far behind, and, at a distance, Thackeray 
followed in their footsteps. A Whig on the staff of 
a Tory magazine, Thackeray was not asked to exercise 
his satirical powers on political personages ; and to 
him fell the more congenial task of reviewing art and 
letters : in which field he restrained himself not at all, 
and when he disliked a book or a picture left nothing 
of his disapproval to the imagination of his readers. 

Thackeray's papers on art were certainly as out- 
spoken as they were amusing, and his annual humor- 
istical article on the exhibitions so infuriated the 
painters that Frank Stone told Edward FitzGerald that 
"Thackeray would get himself horsewhipped one day 
by one of the infuriated Apelleses." In art as in 
literature Thackeray sought the natural, and when he 
could find only affectation, he wielded the critical flail 
with no little vigour. The " Christian " or ** Catholic" 
art seemed to him humbug, and he attacked it 

Here, for instance, is Chevalier Ziegler's picture 
of "St. Luke painting the Virgin." St. Luke has 
a monk's dress on, embroidered, however, smartly 
round the sleeves. The Virgin sits in an immense 
yellow-ochre halo, with her son in her arms. She 
looks preternaturally solemn ; as does St. Luke, who 
is eyeing his paint-brush with an intense, ominous, 
mystical look. They call this Catholic art. There 
is nothing, my dear friend, more easy in life. First 
take your colours, and rub them down clear — bright 
carmine, bright yellow, bright sienna, bright ultra- 
marine, bright green. Make your costumes as much 

From an jinfuihlished ivatei'-colouT di'aiving by D. Dighion 
Reproduced by permission of Major William H. Lambert 


as possible like the costumes of the early part of the 
fifteenth century. Paint them in with the above 
colours, and if on a gold ground, the more ''Catholic" 
your art is. Dress your Apostles like priests before 
the altar ; and remember to have a good commodity 
of crosiers, censers, and other such gimcracks, as 
you may see in the Catholic chapels, in Sutton 
Street, or elsewhere. Deal in Virgins, and dress 
them like a burgomaster's wife by Cranach or Van 
Eyck. Give them all long twisted tails to their 
gowns, and proper angular draperies. Place all 
their heads on one side, with the eyes shut and the 
proper solemn simper. At the back of the head, 
draw, and gild with gold-leaf, a halo, or glory, of 
the exact shape of a cart-wheel : and you have the 
thing done. It is Catholic art tout crache ; as Louis 
Philippe says. 

He had little affection for the historical school, and 
made cruel fun of Haydon's immense canvases, of 
one of which he wrote : 

Let us hope somebody will buy. Who, I cannot 
tell ; it will not do for a chapel ; it is too big for a 
house : I have it — it might answer to hang up over 
a caravan at a fair, if a travelling orrery were ex- 
hibited within.^ 

Thackeray had his likes and dislikes like any other 
critic, but when he saw fine work he rarely failed to 
recognise it. The author of the biography of Turner 
has stated that " Thackeray had more than a finger in 
lashing the dotage of this great man's genius," but, 
though the critic did not think highly of ''Cicero at 
his Villa " and other works of the painter, and did not 
know whether "The Slave-Trader" was sublime or 
ridiculous, his splendid tribute to " The Fighting 

^ Picture Gossip i^Fraser's Magazine, June, 1845.) 
I.— M 


Temeraire " made amends for his want of appreciation 
of the other pieces. 

I must request you to turn your attention to a 
noble river piece by J. W. M. Turner, Esq., R.A., 
" The Fighting Temeraire " — as grand a painting as 
ever figured on the walls of any academy, or came 
from the easel of any painter. The old Temeraire 
is dragged to her last home by a little, spiteful, 
diabolical steamer. A mighty red sun, amidst a 
host of flaring clouds, sinks to rest on one side of 
the picture, and illumines a river that seems inter- 
minable, and a countless navy that fades away into 
such a wonderful distance as never was painted 
before. The little demon of a steamer is belching 
out a volume (why do I say a volume? not a hundred 
volumes could express it) of foul, lurid, red-hot 
malignant smoke, paddling furiously and lashing 
up the water about it ; while behind it (a cold grey 
moon looking down on it), slow, sad, and majestic, 
follows the brave old ship, with death, as it were, 
written on her. . . . It is absurd, you will say (and 
with a great deal of reason) for Titmarsh, or any 
other Briton, to grow so politically enthusiastic about 
a four-foot canvas, representing a ship, a steamer, 
a river, and a sunset. But herein surely lies the 
power of the great artist. He makes you see and 
think of a good deal more than the objects before 
you ; he knows how to soothe or intoxicate, to fire or to 
depress, by a few notes, or forms, or colours, of which 
we cannot trace the effects to the source, but only ac- 
acknowledge the power. I recollect some years ago, at 
the theatre at Weimar, hearing Beethoven's ''Battle 
of Vittoria," in which, amidst a storm of glorious 
music, the air of "God save the King" was intro- 
duced. The very instant it began, every English- 
man in the house was bolt upright, and so stood 
reverently until the air was played out. Why so ? 
From some such thrill of excitement as makes us 
glow and rejoice over Mr. Turner and his "Fighting 
Temeraire," which I am sure, when the art of trans- 


lating colours into music or poetry shall be discovered, 
will be found to be a magnificent natural ode or piece 
of music. ^ 

Thackeray's papers on art are too well known for 
it to be desirable here, where the object is to de- 
scribe rather than to criticise them, to embark upon 
a lengthy discussion, and these brief remarks may 
conclude with the well-deserved panegyric on one of 
the greatest of the humoristical artists, upon whose 
work he was well qualified to speak. 

The reader will perhaps wonder at the high-flown 
tone in which we speak of the services and merits of 
an individual, whom he considers a humble scraper 
on steel, that is wonderfully popular already. But 
none of us remember all the benefits we owe him ; 
they have come one by one, one driving out the 
memory of the other ; it is only when we come to 
examine them altogether as the writer has done, who 
has a pile of books on the table before him — a heap 
of personal kindnesses from George Cruikshank 
(not presents, if you please, for we bought, borrowed, 
or stole every one of them), that we feel what we owe 
him. Look at one of Mr. Cruikshank's works, and 
we pronounce him an excellent humourist. Look at 
all, his reputation is increased by a kind of geometri- 
cal progression ; as a whole diamond is a hundred 
times more valuable than the hundred splinters into 
which it might be broken would be. A fine rough 
English diamond is this about which we have been 

Thackeray in these early days of his literary career 
was, as it has been shown, prepared to write for any- 
body or on anything, and a glance at the subjects with 

' A Second Lecture on the Fine Arts (Fraser's Magazine, June 1839). 
"^ An Essay on the Genius of George Cruikshank ( Westminster Review^ 
June 1840). 


which he dealt recalls the picture he subsequently 
presented of his young friend, Pendennis. 

The courage of young critics is prodigious : they 
clamber up to the judgment-seat, and, with scarce a 
hesitation, give their opinion upon works the most 
intricate or profound. Had Macaulay's History or 
Herschell's Astronomy been put before Pen at this 
period, he would have looked through the volumes, 
meditated his opinion over a cigar, and signified his 
august approval of either author, as if the critic had 
been their born superior, and indulgent master and 
patron. By the help of the " Biographic Univer- 
selle " or the British Museum, he would be able to 
take a rapid resume of a historical period, and allude 
to names, dates, and facts, in such a masterly, easy 
way, as to astonish his mamma at home, who won- 
dered where her boy could have acquired such a 
prodigious store of reading, and himself, too, when 
he came to read over his articles two or three months 
after they had been composed, and when he had 
forgotten the subject and the books which he had 
consulted. At that period of his life, Mr. Pen owns 
that he would not have hesitated, at twenty-four hours' 
notice, to pass an opinion upon the greatest scholars, 
or to give a judgment upon the Encyclopasdia.^ 

Thackeray was probably not called upon to review 
an encyclopsedia, but he did not hesitate to pronounce 
judgment upon Carlyle's '' French Revolution," Count 
Valerian Krasinski's "History of the Reformation in 
Poland," Tyler's "Life of Henry V," Eraser's "Jour- 
ney from Constantinople to Teheran," and scores of 
other works upon which he was certainly not able to 
speak with authority. There were, however, some 
subjects more congenial to him, and the expression of 
his opinions on these are of assistance in the task of 

* Pendennis^ chap, xxxvi. 


presenting his character. We see him from the first 
tilting with all his powers against affectation, against 
snobbery and against the degradation of the literary 
art. With what fire did he attack Byron on the first of 
these counts. 

Give me a fresh, dewy, healthy rose out of Somer- 
setshire; not one of those superb, tawdry, unwhole- 
some exotics, which are only good to make poems 
about. Lord Byron wrote more cant of this sort than 
any poet I know of. Think of ''the peasant girls 
with dark blue eyes" of the Rhine — the brown-faced, 
flat-nosed, thick-lipped, dirty wenches ! Think of 
" filling high a cup of Samian wine " ; small beer is 
nectar compared to it, and Byron himself always 
drank gin. That man 7iever wrote from his heart. 
He got up rapture and enthusiasm with an eye to the 
public; . . . Our native bard! Mon dieii! He 
Shakespeare's, Milton's, Keats', Scott's native bard ! 
Well, woe be to the man who denies the public gods!^ 

How angry he was with the artists and authors who 
contributed to the " Keepsake " and other trashy 
annuals, and how vigorously he attacked them again 
and again in Eraser's Magazine and the Times! 

Miss Landon, Miss Mitford, or my Lady Blessing- 
ton, writes a song upon the opposite page [to the 
plate], about water lily, chilly, stilly, shivering be- 
side a streamlet, plighted, blighted, love-benighted, 
falsehood sharper than a gimlet, lost affection, recol- 
lection, cut connexion, tears in torrents, true love- 
token, spoken, broken, sighing, dying, girl of 
Florence, and so on. The poetry is quite worthy of 
the picture, and a little sham sentiment is employed 
to illustrate a little sham art. ... It cannot be 
supposed that Miss Landon, a woman of genius, — 
Miss Mitford, a lady of exquisite wit and taste — 

^ From Cornhill to Grand Cairo, chap. v. 


should, of their own accord, sit down to indite namby- 
pamby verses about silly, half-decent pictures ; or 
that Jenkins, Parris, Meadows, and Co., are not 
fatigued by this time with the paltry labour assigned 
to them. . . . Who sets them to this wretched 
work? — to paint these eternal fancy portraits, of ladies 
in voluptuous attitudes and various stages of disha- 
bille, to awaken the dormant sensibilities of misses in 
their teens, or tickle the worn-out palettes of rakes 
and roues. What a noble occupation for a poet ! 
what a delicate task for an artist ! ^ 

Even more likely than these ephemeral productions 
to bring letters into contempt was a manifesto issued by 
Ainsworth, when that novelist took over the Monthly 
Magazine from Colburn ; and this in a vigorous pro- 
test, unknown to the present generation, Thackeray 
held up to ridicule. 

Mr. Ainsworth, '* on whom the Editorship of the 
New Monthly Magazine has devolved," parades a list 
of contributors to that brilliant periodical, and says 
he has secured the aid of several writers *' eminent not 
only for talent^ but for high rank." 

Are they of high rank as authors, or in the Red 
Book? Mr. Ainsworth can't mean that the readers of 
his Magazine care for an author because he happens 
to be a lord — a flunkey might — but not a gentleman 
who has any more brains than a fool. A literary 
gentleman who respects his calling doesn't surely 
mean to propitiate the public by saying, " I am going 
to write for you, and — and Lord Fitzdiddle is going 
to write too." 

Hang it, man, let him write — write and be — suc- 
cessful, or write and be — unsuccessful, according to 
his merits. But don't let us talk about high rank in 
the republic of letters — let us keep that place clear. 
Publishers have sought for lordlings, we know, and 

^ A Word on the Annuals (Fraser's Magazine, December 1837). 


got them to put their unlucky names to works which 
they never wrote ; but don't let men of letters demean 
themselves in this way. 

No, William Harrison, trust to your own powers 
and genius — trust to the harrowing influence of the 
" Revelations of London " — trust to the contributors 
''who have shed a lustre over the Magazine," the 
enterprising and erudite Whatdyecallem ; Thingamy 
"whose domestic tales have found an echo in every 
bosom," and the rest. But don't let us hear any more 
of high rank as a recommendation.^ 

No sooner had these lines gone to the printer than 
Thackeray felt uncomfortable at the thought of attacking 
a man he knew from behind the safe shield of anony- 
mity, and he proceeded to avow the authorship. 

Of course I'll come to dinner on Sunday, and we 
are just as good friends as ever [he wrote to Ains- 
worth, on June 30, 1845]. Wasn't it much better to 
complain and explain? I think so — and the imperial 
house of Titmarsh is now satisfied. There's one thing 
I regret very much, and must be told to you now in 
making a clean breast of it — is a certain paragraph 
in the next Punchy relating to a certain advertisement 
about contributors, *' not only of talent, hiU of rank.^'' 
This moved my wrath ; and has been hardly handled 
— this was before our meeting and explanation — I 
always must think it a very objectionable advertise- 
ment — but shouldn't have lifted my hand to smite my 
friend, had explanation come earlier, so that no^ you 
must be called upon to play the part of forgiver, in 
which I'm sure you will shine. . . . Your terms 
are prodigiously good, and if I can see the material 
for a funny story you shall have it.^ 

^ Immense Opportunity {Punch, July 5, 1845). This paper has only 
been reprinted in Macmillan's edition of Thackeray's Works (Vol. XVII, 
" Travels in London, etc."). 

^ M. H. Spielmann : Thackeray's Hitherto Unpublished Contributions 
to " Punch" p. 133. 


Thackeray, however, did not find material for a "funny 
story," and he never wrote again for the New Monthly 
Magazine^ but it is pleasant to relate that Ainsworth 
accepted the olive branch, and that henceforth the 
relations between them were cordial. 

To return to Thackeray as a reader and critic of 
books. Something has already been said of his 
attitude towards the Newgate school of fiction, and he 
was never weary of protesting against it. 

Vice is never to be mistaken for virtue in Fielding's 
honest downright books ; it goes by its name, and 
invariably gets its punishment. See the consequences 
of honesty ! Many a squeamish lady of our time 
would throw down one of these romances with horror, 
but would go through every page of Mr. Ainsworth's 
"Jack Sheppard " with perfect comfort to herself. 
Ainsworth dared not paint his hero as the scoundrel 
he knew him to be ; he must keep his brutalities in 
the background, else the public morals will be out- 
raged, and so he produces a book quite absurd and 
unreal, and infinitely more immoral than anything 
Fielding ever wrote. "Jack Sheppard" is immoral 
actually because it is decorous. The Spartans, who 
used to show drunken slaves to their children, took 
care, no doubt, that the slave should be really and 
truly drunk. Sham drunkenness which never passed 
the limits of propriety, but only went so far as to be 
amusing, would be rather an object to incite youth 
to intoxication than to deter him from it, and some 
late novels have always struck us in the same light.^ 

This clearly expressed the view he held on the subject, 
and " Catherine," though presented as a story, was, in 
fact, an attempt to counteract the influence of those 
books that made heroes of highwaymen and murderers, 

^ Review of Fielding's Works (the Times, September 2, 1840). 


and created a false sympathy for the vicious and 

We ought, perhaps, to make some apologies to 
the public for introducing them to characters that 
are so utterly worthless ; as we confess all our heroes, 
with the exception of Mr. Bullock, to be [Thackeray 
wrote at the end of chapter i]. In this we have 
consulted nature and history, rather than the pre- 
vailing taste and the general manner of authors. 
The amusing novel of "Ernest Maltravers," for 
instance, opens with a seduction ; but then it is per- 
formed by people of the strictest virtue on both sides; 
and there is so much religion and philosophy in the 
heart of the seducer, so much tender innocence in 
the soul of the seduced, that — bless the little dears ! — 
their very peccadilloes make one interested in them ; 
and their naughtiness becomes quite sacred, so 
deliciously is it described. Now, if we are to be 
interested by rascally actions, let us have them with 
plain faces, and let them be performed, not by 
virtuous philosophers, but by rascals. Another 
clever class of novelists adopt the contrary system, 
and create interest by making their rascals perform 
virtuous actions. Against these popular plans we 
here solemnly appeal. We say, let your rogues in 
novels act like rogues, and your honest men like 
honest men ; don't let us have any juggling and 
thimblerigging with virtue and vice, so that, at the 
end of three volumes, the bewildered reader shall 
not know which is which ; don't let us find ourselves 
kindling at the generous qualities of thieves, and 
sympathising at the rascalities of noble hearts. For 
our own part, we know what the public likes, and 
have chosen rogues for our characters, and have 
taken a story from the "Newgate Calendar," which 
we hope to follow out to edification. Among the 
rogues, at least, we will have nothing that shall be 
mistaken for virtues. And if the British public (after 
calling for three or four editions) shall give up, not 
only our rascals, but the rascals of all other authors, 


we shall be content — we shall apply to government 
for a pension, and think that our duty is done. 

A little further on, Thackeray again stopped the 
narrative to make a further protest. 

The public will hear of nothing but rogues ; and 
the only way in which poor authors, who must live, 
can act honestly by the public and themselves, is to 
paint such thieves as they are ; not dandy, poetical, 
rose-water thieves, but real downright scoundrels, 
leading scoundrelly lives, drunken, profligate, dis- 
solute, low, as scoundrels will be. They don't quote 
Plato, like Eugene Aram ; or live like gentlemen, 
and sing the pleasantest ballads in the world, like 
jolly Dick Turpin ; or prate eternally about to koXov, 
like that precious canting Maltravers, whom we all 
of us have read about and pitied ; or die whitewashed 
saints, like poor Biss Dadsy in " Oliver Twist." No, 
my dear madam, you and your daughters have no 
right to admire and sympathise with any such 
persons, fictitious or real : you ought to be made 
cordially to detest, scorn, loathe, abhor, and abom- 
inate all people of this kidney. Men of genius, like 
those whose works we have above alluded to, have 
no business to make these characters interesting or 
agreeable ; to be feeding your morbid fancies, or 
indulging their own, with such monstrous food. For 
our parts, young ladies, we beg you to bottle up your 
tears, and not waste a single drop of them on any of 
the heroes or heroines in this history : they are all 
rascals, every soul of them, and behave "as sich." 
Keep your sympathy for those who deserve it ; don't 
carry it, for preference, to the Old Bailey, and grow 
maudlin over the company assembled there.^ 

In this satire, which is founded upon an incident 
narrated in the " Newgate Calendar," Thackeray 
mitigated as little as possible of the horrors, with the 

^ Catherine, chap. ii. 


unfortunate result that readers, forgetful or ignorant 
of the purpose which inspired it, were absorbed and 
fascinated by the realistic narrative, and critics of 
little discernment wrote of it as one of the dullest, 
most vulgar, and immoral works extant. No doubt 
those who were disgusted by *' Catherine," later 
thought Thackeray an admirer of Barry Lyndon, 
Esq., and regarded Henry Fielding as a staunch 
sympathiser with the unfortunate Mr. Jonathan Wild. 
Irony is a dangerous weapon, and Thackeray realised 
that with " Catherine " he had not achieved his purpose. 
Thackeray's dislike of Lytton as the author of 
''Eugene Aram" was much aggravated by that 
author's affectations, and very bitterly did he attack 
him in Eraser's Magazine. When in after days 
Thackeray remarked, "I suppose we all begin by 
being too savage : I know one 'mho didy" it is probable 
that he was thinking of this and other attacks on 
Lytton, which, indeed, were so violent as to suggest 
personal animus, though, as a matter of fact, the 
objections he entertained against this author were 
purely abstract. 

I wish to egsplain what I meant last night with 
regard to a certain antipathy to a certain great 
author [he wrote to Lady Blessington in 1848]. I 
have no sort of personal dislike (not that it matters 
whether I have or not) to Sir E. L. B. L., on the 
contrary the only time I met him, at the immortal 
Ainsworth's years ago, I thought him very pleasant, 
and I know from his conduct to my dear little 
Blanchard that he can be a most generous and 
delicate-minded friend. BUT there air sentiments 
in his writings which always anger me, big words 
which make me furious, and a premeditated fine 


writing against which I can't help rebelling. . . . 
My antipathy don't go any farther than this : and it 
is accompanied by a great deal of admiration. I 
felt ashamed of myself when I came home and 
thought how needlessly I had spoken of this. What 
does it matter one way or the other, and what cause 
had I to select Sir H. Bulwer of all men in the world 
for these odious confidences. It was very rude. 
I am always making rude speeches and apologising 
for them, like a Nuisance to Society. And now I 
remember how Sir B. Lytton spoke in a very differ- 
ent manner to a mutual friend about your very 
humble servant. 

Thackeray was somewhat troubled by these early 
onslaughts on Lytton, and, when at the request of 
the American publisher, Appleton, he wrote a preface 
to an edition of his minor works, he took the oppor- 
tunity to express his regret. 

There is an opportunity of being satiric or senti- 
mental. The careless papers written at an early 
period, and never seen since the printer's boy carried 
them away, are brought back and laid at the father's 
door ; and he cannot, if he would, disown his own 
children. Why were some of the little brats brought 
out of their obscurity? I own to a feeling of any- 
thing but pleasure in reviewing some of these mis- 
shapen juvenile creatures, which the publisher 
has disinterred and resuscitated. There are two 
performances especially (among the critical and 
biographical works of the erudite Mr. Yellowplush) 
which I am sorry to see reproduced, and I ask 
pardon of the author of ''The Caxtons " for a 
lampoon, which I know he himself has forgiven, 
and which I wish I could recall. I had never seen 
that eminent writer but once in public when this 
satire was penned, and wonder at the recklessness of 
the young man who could fancy such personality was 


harmless jocularity, and never calculated that it 
might give pain.^ 

It was some years later that Thackeray told a friend 
of his and Lytton, that he would have given worlds to 
have burnt those lampoons, and that he much wished 
to see the latter and express his contrition. Thackeray 
gave his friend to understand that he desired his 
feeling of regret and his admiration for the *' Caxton " 
series of novels to be communicated to the man he 
had wantonly attacked ; and soon after he wrote to 
Lord Lytton. 

Looking over some American reprints of my books, 
I find one containing a preface written by me when 
I was in New York, in which are the following 
words: [here is copied the passage printed above]. 
I don't know whether you were ever made aware of 
this cry of " Peccavi " : but, with the book in which 
it appears just fresh before me, I think it fair to 
write a line to acquaint you with the existence of 
such an apology ; and to assure you of the author's 
repentance for the past, and the present goodwill.^ 

Bulwer Lytton's reputation, founded mainly upon his 
later novels, cannot be injured by the reviving of any 
criticism directed against the early work, and therefore 
it is permissible to reprint here the delightful burlesque 
speech which Thackeray put into his mouth, in which 
he endeavours to dissuade Yellowplush from entering 
the literary calling. 

'* Yellowplush," says he, seizing my hand, ''you 
are right. Quit not your present occupation ; black 

^ Preface to Mr. Brown's Letters to a Yon7tg Man about Tow7i, New 
York, 1853. 

^ Life of Lord Lytton, Vol. II, p. 275. 


boots, clean knives, wear plush, all your life, but 
don't turn literary man. Look at me. I am the first 
novelist in Europe. I have ranged with eagle wing 
over the wide regions of literature, and perched on 
every eminence in its turn. I have gazed with eagle 
eye on the sun of philosophy, and fathomed the 
mysterious depths of the human mind. All languages 
are familiar to me, all thoughts are known to me, all 
men understood by me. I have gathered wisdom 
from the honeyed lips of Plato, as we wandered in 
the gardens of the Academes — wisdom, too, from the 
mouth of Job Johnson, as we smoked our 'backy in 
Seven Dials. Such must be the studies, and such is 
the mission, in this world, of the Poet-Philosopher. 
But the knowledge is only emptiness ; the initiation 
is but misery ; the initiated, a man shunned and 
banned by his fellows. O," said Bullwig, clasping 
his hands, and throwing his fine i's up to the chande- 
lier, "the curse of Pwometheus descends upon his 
wace. Wath and punishment pursue them from 
genewation to genewation ! Wo to Genius, the 
Heaven-sealer, the fire-stealer ! Wo, and thrice 
bitter desolation ! Earth is the wock on which Zeus, 
wemorseless, stwetches his withing victim — men, the 
vultures that feed and fatten on him. Ai, Ai ! it is 
agony eternal — gwoaning and solitawy despair ! And 
you, Yellowplush, would penetwate these mystewies; 
you would waise the awful veil, and stand in the 
Twemendous Pwesence. Beware as you value your 
peace, beware ! Withdraw, wash Neophyte ! for 
Heaven's sake — O, for Heaven's sake ! " — here he 
looked round with agony — "give me a glass of 
bwandy-and-water for this clawet is beginning to 
disagwee with me."i 

Thackeray might belabour Ainsworth, Madame Sand, 
Lytton, and the rest honestly believing "Spiridion," 
" Eugene Aram", "Jack Sheppard" and similar works 
were harmful ; but he was never sparing of praise for 

^ Mr. Yellowplush' s Aje-w. 


his contemporaries when he thought it deserved. He 
wrote enthusiastically of Cruikshank and Leech, who 
might, in some measure, be regarded as his rivals, 
and always spoke with great admiration of Doyle ; 
and, both in his writings and letters, expressed, not 
necessarily unbounded, but certainly not too strictly 
critical, admiration of Macaulay and Washington 
Irving, of Tom Hood (whose "Song of the Shirt" he 
declared the finest lyric ever written), of Charles Lever 
and Charlotte Bronte ; he admired Disraeli's splendid 
talents, and praised even Lytton for the good example 
he set by being ** thoroughly literate." Of Scott he 
made frequent mention, and thought "The Bride of 
Lammermoor " his best novel, and loved " Ivanhoe." 

As for Rebecca, now her head is laid upon Ivan- 
hoe's heart : I shall not ask to hear what she is 
whispering, or describe further that scene of meeting, 
though I declare I am quite affected when I think 
of it. Indeed I have thought of it any time these 
five-and-twenty years — ever since, as a boy at school, 
I commenced the noble study of novels — ever since 
the day when, lying on sunny slopes of half-holidays, 
the fair chivalrous figures and beautiful shapes of 
knights and ladies were visible to me — ever since 
I grew to love Rebecca, that sweetest creature of the 
poet's fancy, and longed to see her righted.^ 

Next to Scott, if not, indeed, before him, in the list 
of Thackeray's heroes came Dumas, whom, to his 
exceeding delight, he had met at the house of Gudin 
the painter. " Dumas is charming. He is better than 
Walter Scott," he said enthusiastically to John Esten 
Cooke. "I came near writing a book on the same 

^ Rebecca and Roivena, chap. vii. 


subject, ' Les Trois Mousquetaires,' and taking Mon- 
sieur D'Artagnan for my hero. D'Artagnan was a real 
character of the age of Louis XIV, and wrote his own 
'Memoires.' I remember picking up a dingy copy 
of them on an old bookstall in London, price sixpence, 
and intended to make something of it. But Dumas 
got ahead of me — he snaps up everything. He is 
wonderful ! " 

Thackeray was always happy when he could pay a 
compliment in his books to his friends, and never lost 
an opportunity to do so. 

The young Aja came for a pair of shoes, and his 
contortions were so delightful as he tried them, that 
I remained with great pleasure, wishing for Leech 
to be at hand to sketch his lordship and his fat 
mamma, who sat on the counter.^ 

There should have been a poet in our company to 
describe that charming little bay of Glaucus, into 
which we entered on the 26th of September in the 
first steamboat that ever disturbed its beautiful 
waters. You can't put down in prose that delight- 
ful episode of natural poetry ; it ought to be done in 
a symphony, full of sweet melodies and swelling 
harmonies ; or sung in a strain of clear crystal 
iambics, such as Milnes knows how to write.^ 

Allusion has already been made to Thackeray's love 
for the humorous writers of the eighteenth century, 
which sprang up in him even when he was at the 
Charterhouse ; and though in his lectures on them, as 
he was careful to state, it was of the men and their 
lives rather than of their books that he treated, yet here 
and there were critical remarks worthy of notice. 
Swift, he admitted reluctantly, for he hated the man, 

J Fro7n Cornhill to Grand Cairo, chap. vii. - Ibid., chap. x. 


possessed a surprising humour, noble, just, and 
honest satire, and the power of perfect imagery : "the 
greatest wit of all times," "an immense genius" ; but 
it is obvious that of all the writings of this author he 
preferred the "Journal to Stella," than which, he de- 
clared, there was " nothing more manly, more tender, 
more exquisitely touching." He could not refuse to 
see Sterne's wit, humour, and pathos, but he dis- 
liked his pose : " he used to blubber perpetually in 
his study, and finding his tears infectious, and that 
they brought him a great popularity, he exercised the 
lucrative gift of weeping ; he utilised it, and cried 
on every occasion." He was prejudiced against both 
these writers, and in a letter to a correspondent who 
had lent him some Sterne MSS., one reason may be 
discovered : 

I am sorry that reading the Brahmin's letters to 
his Brahmine did not increase my respect for the 
Reverend Laurence Sterne. 

In his printed letters there is one (xcii.) addressed 
to Lady P. full of love and despair for my lady, and 

announcing that he had got a ticket for Miss 's 

benefit that night, which he must use if deprived of 
the superior delight of seeing Lady P. I looked in 
the " Dramatic Register" (I think is the name of the 
book) to find what lady took a benefit on a Tuesday, 
and found the names of two, one at Covent Garden 
and one at Drury Lane on the same Tuesday evening, 
and no other Miss's benefit on a Tuesday during 
the season. Miss Poyntz, I think, is one of the 
names, but I'm five miles from the book as I write to 
you, and forget the lady's name and the day. 

However, on the day Sterne was writing to Lady 

P. and going to Miss 's benefit he is dyinf^ in 

his Journal to the Brahmine — can't eat, has the Doc- 
tor, and is in a dreadful way. He wasn't dying but 


lying, I'm afraid. God help him ; a falser and 
wickeder man it's difficult to read of. Do you know 
the accompanying pamphlet (my friend Mr. Cooper 
gave me this copy, which he had previously sent to 
the Reform Club, and has since given the Club 
another copy)? There is more of Yorick's love- 
making in these letters, with blasphemy to flavour 
the compositions, and indications of a scornful un- 
belief. Of course any man is welcome to believe as 
he likes for me except a parson ; and I can't help 
looking upon Swift and Sterne as a couple of traitors 
and renegades (as one does upon Bonneval or poor 
Bem the other day), with a scornful pity for them in 
spite of all their genius and their greatness. 

For Congreve, Wycherley, Farquhar, and their merry 
and shameless Comic Muse with the libertine heroes 
and the wanton heroines he had no liking. **A touch 
of Steele's tenderness is worth all Congreve's finery ; 
a flash of Swift's lightning, a beam of Addison's pure 
sunshine, and his tawdry playhouse taper is invisible." 
It was not as the author of "Cato," nor of the poem 
celebrating the victor of Blenheim that Addison 
attracted him, but as "a Tatler of small talk and a 
Spectator of Mankind." "He came in that artificial age, 
and began to speak with his noble, natural voice. He 
came, the gentle satirist, who hit no unfair blow, the 
kind judge who castigated only in smiling." Thack- 
eray loved Steele, whom he declared the founder of senti- 
mental writing in English, and the first author to pay a 
manly homage to woman. Naturalness was a short cut 
to the heart of the author of " Vanity Fair," and on 
this ground he paid tribute to Steele, and to Goldsmith, 
with his simple songs of love and beauty. He could 
not too highly praise "The Deserted Village", "The 

\UtL VuiUVL, ['aAa4x Vu ^crl^ WiUv ^yXiMH. Vt ^t** Stl 


^ /rtA'f "/ « /(■/''<''- /<' /'. " '. C7//'Av, Scptcinlwy 21, iS=;i. From the original in the 
liritish Miisiiiiii 


Vicar of Wakefield, " and the two famous plays. Besides 
Goldsmith, his favourite poets seem to have been Prior 
and Gay: ''sweet lyric singers," he styled them. 
Prior, he regarded as the easiest, the richest, the most 
charmingly humorous of English lyrical poets ; while 
Gay charmed him by the force of simple melody and 
artless ringing laughter. He singled out the six 
pastorals called the "Shepherd's Week" and the bur- 
lesque poem of ''Trivia," and remarked that "these 
are to poetry what charming little Dresden figures 
are to sculpture : graceful, minikin, fantastic, with a 
certain beauty always accompanying them." Pope 
he unhesitatingly ranked highest amongst the poets, 
brightest among the English wits and humorists, and 
the greatest literary artist of the eighteenth century. 
Before Fielding and Smollett he bowed low, as a 
subject before his sovereign. "Humphrey Clinker" 
he thought the most amusing story written since the 
goodly art of novel-writing began, and he pronounced 
"Peregrine Pickle" "excellent for its liveliness and 
spirit, and wonderful for its atrocious vulgarity." He 
preferred both these writers to Richardson, though he 
admitted that " Clarissa" had one of the best-managed 
surprises he had read ; but his favourite author was, 
of course. Fielding, who may be looked upon as 
the literary godfather of his famous successor. He 
naturally does not think "Tom Jones" a virtuous 
character, and he protests against the author's evident 
liking and admiration for his hero, but, he says, 

As a picture of manners, the novel of " Tom 
Jones" is indeed exquisite: as a work of construc- 
tion quite a wonder : the by-play of wisdom ; the 


power of observation ; the multiplied felicitous turns 
and thoughts ; the varied character of the great 
Comic Epic, — keep the reader in a perpetual admira- 
tion and curiosity.^ . . . The public of our day need 
scarcely be warned that if they are to pass an hour 
with Fielding they will find him continually in such 
low company ; those, therefore, who are excessively 
squeamish and genteel will scornfully keep away 
from him ; those who have a mind to forgive a little 
coarseness, for the sake of one of the honestest, 
manliest, kindest companions in the world, cannot, 
as we fancy, find a better than Fielding, or get so 
much true wit and shrewdness from any other writer 
of our language.^ 

It cannot be contended that Thackeray was a great 
critic. Indeed there is no doubt that, as a rule, he 
preferred second-rate books of the first-class to the 
greatest. For instance, while as a matter of course he 
admitted that Milton was a great poet, he added that 
'' he was such a bore that no one could read him." 
Whatever one may think of the discernment of a man 
who says that, it is impossible to doubt his honesty. 
He was often led away by the character of the author 
whose works he was criticising. Because of this he 
disapproved of Swift and Sterne, and rather grudgingly 
admitted their qualities ; but he greatly praised Pope, 
whom he loved because of his infirmity, and because 
of the love the poet bore his mother. His judgments 
came from the heart rather than the intellect, and it was 
fortunate when these coincided. "St. Charles," he 
said to Edward FitzGerald, in a third-floor in Charlotte 
Street, putting one of Charles Lamb's letters to his 

' English Humourists of ihc Eighlcenth Century. 

■ Review of Fielding's Works in the Times, September 2, 1840. 


forehead, remembering his devotion to his afflicted 

I hate Juvenal [he wrote to James Hannay, when 
he was preparing his lectures on the Humourists]. 
I mean, I think him a truculent brute, and I like 
Horace better than you do, and rate Churchill much 
lower ; and as for Swift, you haven't made me alter 
my opinion. I admire, or rather admit, his power as 
much as you do ; but I don't admire that kind of 
power so much as I did fifteen years ago, or twenty, 
shall we say? Love is a higher intellectual exercise 
than Hatred ; and when you get one or two more of 
those young ones you write so pleasantly about, 
you'll come over to the side of the kind wags, I 
think, rather than the cruel ones.^ 

His own tastes led him to appreciate those books in 
which a kindly view of life was taken. He would allow 
to Flaubert no credit for *' Madame Bovary," which he 
pronounced a bad book : '' it is a heartless cold-blooded 
study of the downfall and degeneration of a woman." ^ 
For that sort of study, however excellent artistically, he 
had no admiration. Nor could he endure books that 
leave the reader sad. He told John Esten Cooke he 
could never read *' Don Quixote" with pleasure, his 
sympathy for the knight made it painful to him ; while 
stories with unhappy endings he would not read. He 
never dared to re-read **The Pirate" or "The Bride 
of Lammermoor " or '* Kenilworth ", " because the end 
is unhappy, and people die, and are murdered at the 
end." 3 

^ James Hannay : A Short Memoir of . . . Thackeray, p. 19. 
^ H. Sutherland Edwards : Recollections, p. 36, 
^ De Juventute. 


The best of your poems, instead of making me 
laugh, had quite another effect [he wrote to Horace 
Smith]. All the best comic stuff so affects me. 
Sancho, Falstaff, even Fielding in "Amelia." 



Thackeray's success with the " Yellowplush Papers" in England and 
America — his opinion of "The Great Hoggarty Diamond" — and 
John Sterling's appreciation of that story — Thackeray's position in 
the literary world in 1843 — his income — his belief in his gift of writ- 
ing — some reasons why he did not earlier become famous — his use of 
pseudonyms — his best work not published in book-form — he runs 
counter to the feeling of the public — his earlier works considered — 
the "Yellowplush Correspondence" — "Catherine" — "A Shabby 
Genteel Story" — the " Fitz-Boodle Papers" — "Barry Lyndon." 

WHEN ''From Cornhill to Grand Cairo" 
appeared in January 1846, Thackeray 
had been writing for about eight years, 
and it is time to pause and consider what 
was his position at this time. 

At the outset of his career he had achieved consider- 
able success with the "Yellowplush Correspondence," 
and this and ''Major Gahagan " (which attracted little 
or no attention in this country) were at once pirated in 
America, where the books circulated widely. His work 
was much appreciated there, and N. P. Willis, then 
part proprietor of the New York Corsair, coming to 
London, made it his business to secure Thackeray's 
services for the weekly paper. " I have engaged a 
contributor to the Corsair," Willis wrote to his co- 
editor, T. O. Porter. "Who do you think? The 



author of * Yellowplush ' and 'Major Gahagan.' I 
have mentioned it in my jottings, that our readers may 
know all about it. He has gone to Paris and will write 
letters from there, and afterwards from London, for a 
guinea a close cohtmn of the Corsair — cheaper than I 
ever did anything in my life. I will see that he is paid 
for a while to see how you like him. For myself I think 
him the very best periodical writer alive. He is a 
royal, daring, fine creature, too. I take the responsi- 
bility of it." It will be seen from this letter that Willis 
was not only a discerning editor, but also an excellent 
man of business. 

The favourable start made by Thackeray was not 
followed up by him, so far, at least, as concerns the 
public. His papers on art and his reviews of books 
were well written, trenchant, and amusing, and en- 
deared him to editors, who were willing to accept such 
work from him ; but his stories did not find so much 
favour in their eyes, and attracted little attention from 
outsiders. Speaking from the point of view of an 
editor anxious to place before his readers such matter 
as they liked, " Catherine " was not a success, nor " A 
Shabby Genteel Story," nor "The Great Hoggarty 
Diamond," which Blackwood'' s Magazine would not 
have, and which Eraser would only accept for Regina 
if curtailed. "The best thing I ever wrote," said 
Thackeray of this story, on the eve of the appearance of 
"Vanity Fair." The merits of "The Great Hoggarty 
Diamond " were overlooked by the public, which may 
have found it pleasant reading, but lacked discernment 
to see how good it was. One man, however, found in 
it promise of the author's future greatness: "I have 

1846] THACKERAY IN 1843 185 

seen no new book, but am reading your last," John 
Sterling wrote to his mother. " I got hold of the two 
first numbers of 'The Hoggarty Diamond,' and read 
them with extreme delight. What is there better in 
Fielding or Goldsmith? The man is a true genius, 
and with quiet comfort might produce masterpieces 
which would last as long as any we have, and delight 
millions of unborn readers. There is more truth in 
nature in one of those papers, than in all Dickens' 
novels put together." All of which says a great 
deal for the critical faculty of the writer, but unfor- 
tunately could do nothing to increase Thackeray's 

Thackeray's position among his literary brethren at 
this time was little better than the place he occupied in 
the public estimation. When he was in Ireland, he 
endeavoured to persuade Lever, for whom he had 
a sincere regard, to leave Dublin, where he was 
surrounded by third-rate writers, and to come to 
London, where he would be able to make much more 
money. So much advantage, indeed, did Thackeray 
think his fellow - novelist would derive from his 
change of residence, that he backed his advice by 
offers of pecuniary and other assistance, if such were 
needed. Lever, however, for various reasons, declined 
his proposal, and afterwards told a friend that Thackeray 
was the most good-natured man in the world, '* but 
that help from him would be worse than no help at 
all. . . . He (Thackeray) was like a man struggling 
to keep his head above water . . . who offers to teach 
his friend to swim." Lever also added that Thackeray 
"would write for anything and about anything, and 


had so lost himself that his status in London was not 

There was much truth in Lever's remark, for 
Thackeray in those days was, apart from the quality 
of his work, nothing more nor less than a publisher's 
hack. From the outset, however, he was successful 
in making money, and in 1838 was doing well 
enough to refuse a journalistic post worth ^350 a 
year. Few young men who embark in the literary 
calling make so much, or see their way so clear, in the 
first or second year of their apprenticeship, as not to be 
allured by the chance of an assured ;^35o a year. 
Thackeray, then, was making so much as this within 
a year of his settling in London, and, since his output 
increased, considerably more than this in the following 
years ; but he wanted money, and a good deal of it. 
He had no house to keep up, owing to the unfortunate 
illness of his wife ; but he had to pay for that lady's 
accommodation elsewhere, and for his girls' education, 
as well as to put aside something for the future of those 
dependent on him ; and he had also, there is reason to 
believe, to contribute to the support of his mother and 

There is a comfort to think that, however other 
works and masterpieces bearing my humble name 
have been received by the public, namely, with what 
I cannot but think (and future ages will, I have no 
doubt, pronounce) to be unmerited obloquy and 
inattention, the present article, at least, which I 
address to you through the public prints, will be 
read by every one of the numerous readers of this 
Magazine. What a quantity of writings of the 

^ Major Frank Dwyer, in W, Fitzpatrick : Life of Charles Lever. 


same hand have you, my dear friend, pored over ! 
How much delicate wit, profound philosophy (lurking 
hid under harlequin's black mask and spangled 
jacket, nay, under clown's white lead and vermilion) 
— how many quiet wells of deep, gushing pathos, 
have you failed to remark as you hurried through 
those modest pages, for which the author himself 
here makes an apology ! — not that I quarrel with my 
lot, or rebel against that meanest of all martyrdoms, 
indifference, with which a callous age has visited me — 
not that I complain because I am not appreciated by 
the present century — no, no ! — he who lives at this 
time ought to know better than to be vexed by its 
treatment of him — he who pines because Smith or 
Snooks doesn't appreciate him, has a poor, puny 
vein of endurance, and pays those two personages 
too much honour. 

This passage in ''Barmecide Banquets,"^ though 
apparently written in jocular strain, may be taken as a 
fairly accurate description of Thackeray's feelings in 
1845. He was disappointed that the merits of his work 
had not been discovered, and rather sad and perhaps a 
little angry that he was spoken of as only a clever 
writer for the periodicals. *' I can suit the magazines, 
but I can't suit the public, be hanged to them ! " he 
exclaimed, with some bitterness, as, after the failure of 
"The Paris Sketch Book" to attract notice, he re- 
turned to his pot-boilers. 

Poor fellows of the pen and pencil ! We must 
live. The public likes light literature, and we write 
it. Here am I writing magazine jokes and follies, 
and why? Because the public likes such, and will 
purchase no other. ^ 

1 Fraser's Magazine^ November 1845. 
^ May Gambols. 


Nevertheless, although at the moment he "can't suit 
the public, be hanged to them," Thackeray undoubt- 
edly felt that his day must come sooner or later (only it 
seemed more likely to be later than sooner), for he was 
confident of his genius, though perhaps ignorant of its 
extent. His lightest sketches, even his airiest criti- 
cisms, have a ring about them that shows he knew 
his power, and in " Barry Lyndon " there cannot 
be detected a trace of mistrust in his capabilities : 
throughout that romance one feels the hand of the 
artist working with absolute confidence at his first great 

Ainsworth published ''Rookwood" when he was 
twenty-nine ; Disraeli was famous as the author of 
''Vivian Grey" at two-and-twenty, and, before he was 
eleven years older, had written "The Young Duke," 
" Contarini Fleming", "Alroy", " Henrietta Temple " 
and " Venetia " ; Albert Smith was only twenty-eight 
when he made his mark with "The Adventures of Mr. 
Ledbury"; Dickens had written "Sketches by Boz" 
when he was four-and-twenty, "Pickwick" a year later, 
and "Oliver Twist", "Nicholas Nickleby", " The Old 
Curiosity Shop", " Barnaby Rudge " and "American 
Notes " before he was thirty. Thackeray in his thirty- 
sixth year was unknown beyond the narrow circle of 
men whose business it was to search for talent in the 
pages of magazines or reviews. What was the reason 
of this? Certainly it was not because his genius took 
longer to mature than that of the writers just men- 
tioned — though, of course, the fact that at first he 
looked to art rather than to letters to provide him with 
a career gave his literary brethren a few years' start. 


Anthony Trollope in his monograph on Thackeray 
endeavoured to solve the problem. He relates how 
Thackeray had a marked want of assurance (''I can 
fancy," Trollope says, "that, as the sheets went from 
him every day, he told himself, with regard to every 
sheet, that it was a failure. Dickens was quite sure of 
his sheet"); how he was '' unsteadfast, idle, change- 
able of purpose, aware of his own intellect, but not 
trusting it"; and, lastly, how "no man ever failed 
more than he to put his best foot foremost." Now, this 
explanation is, on the face of it, most unconvincing, 
and, what is far worse, misleading. Though Dickens, 
and Trollope also, we may be certain, felt quite sure of 
their sheets, this has nothing to do with the question — 
though if it has, or even if it has not, it is something 
Thackeray never overcame. But then, perhaps, this 
dissatisfaction with his work was because, besides being 
a novelist, Thackeray was an artist to his finger-tips ; 
and because, while lesser men might turn away from their 
completed work with a self-satisfied smile, he would 
glance at his pages mournfully, re-read them, perhaps, 
and think, not whether the public would like them, but 
how far from perfect in his eyes they were. Indeed, 
all his life he was conscious that his work might be 
improved ; and it was with a sigh that he sent the 
sheets to the printer. The charge of idleness may be 
dismissed, if actual output is meant, for Thackeray's 
work during the thirty years he devoted to letters 
is more than sufficient. If intellectual idleness is 
meant, however, then there is something to be said for 
Trollope's view ; but of this aspect of the case some- 
thing will be said in a later chapter. 


There are, however, good and sufficient reasons to 
account for the lack of appreciation from which Thack- 
eray suffered until his thirty-eighth year : firstly, he 
had not given the public a fair chance to discover him; 
secondly, he had not yet produced much work that 
appealed to the general reader. 

To prove the truth of the first statement, that Thack- 
eray had not given the public a fair chance to discover 
him, it is only necessary to refer to the number of 
pseudonyms he employed. Had he elected always to 
write over any one of them, say, over the signature of 
"Titmarsh," this would have been another matter: 
" Titmarsh " would have been as well known as Thack- 
eray should have been ; but this was not the case. 
"Michael Angelo Titmarsh" wrote reviews and short 
stories, and also "The Great Hoggarty Diamond"; 
" Yellowplush " wrote the " Correspondence " ; " Ikey 
Solomons" indited "Catherine"; " Major Gahagan " 
related his own "Tremendous Adventures", "The 
Professor" and "Sultan Stork," and supplied "Mr. 
Wagstaff" with material for one of the four tales 
credited to that gentleman; and " Fitz-Boodle " con- 
tributed his "Confessions", "Professions", "Men's 
Wives," and a story no less important than "Barry 

Besides, much of Thackeray's work appeared 
anonymously in the periodicals : and his contributions 
to Punch were signed by all manners of fantastic 
pseudonyms — to name a few, "Miss Tickletoby," 
"Spec", "Our Fat Contributor", "Paul Pindar," 
"The Mulligan", " Punch's Commissioner ", " Fitz- 
Jeames de la Pluche ", " Frederick Haltamont de Mont- 

1846] PSEUDONYMS 191 

morency."^ His own name had been appended only 
to such unimportant trifles as '' Captain Rook and Mr. 
Pigeon", "The Fashionable Authoress", and "Going 
to see a man hanged." This, it will be seen, rendered 
it difficult even for the initiated to recognise all his 
work, and to the general reader each name suggested 
a different author. Thackeray has explained the ne- 
cessity that drove him to the use of so many 710ms- 

It may so happen to a literary man that the stipend 
which he receives from one publication is not 
sufficient to boil his family pot, and that he must 
write in some other quarter. If Brown writes articles 
in the daily papers, and articles in the weekly and 
monthly periodicals too, and signs the same, he surely 
weakens his force by extending his line. It would 
be better for him to write incognito, than to placard 
his name in so many quarters — as actors understand, 
who do not perform in too many pieces on the same 
night ; and as painters, who know it is not worth 
their while to exhibit more than a certain number 
of pictures." 

It must not be forgotten, too, that the only books that 
Thackeray had published were "The Paris Sketch 
Book", "The Second Funeral of Napoleon ", "Comic 
Tales and Sketches", "The Irish Sketch Book", and 
" From Cornhill to Cairo " — all of them good to read, 
but not one of them showing Thackeray at his best : 

^ After the beginning- of 1846 he used the following, among other, 
signatures in Punch: " PleacemanX ", " Fitzroy Clarence ", "Hibernis 
Hibernior", " Leonitus Androcles Hugglestone ", "John Corks", 
"Folkestone Canterbury", "Brown the Elder", "Mr. Snob", "Solo- 
mon Pacifico", "Goliah Muff", " Gobemouche " and " Thaddeus 

2 Prose r Papers — On the Press and the Public, 


indeed, to-day, when his genius is recognised, these 
volumes are among the least read of his writings. 
"The Great Hoggarty Diamond "and "Barry Lyndon," 
the best of Thackeray's early work, had appeared only 
in Eraser's Magazine^ and it cannot be denied that even 
modern readers, not specially critical, who know the 
value of these stories, would not fully appreciate their 
merits, if they were to peruse them, one in four, the 
other in a dozen, monthly instalments. This objection, 
it is true, is somewhat discounted in the case of the 
"Snob Papers," as they might, without losing their 
charm, indeed perhaps with advantage, be read singly, 
being really only so many units, bound together at the 
fountain head. But this does not weaken the argument, 
for who, among the public, knew that the Snobographer 
was "Titmarsh" and " Fitz-Boodle " and "Yellow- 

It is not to be denied [Thackeray wrote, realising 
the truth of this] that men of signal ability will write 
for years in papers and perish unknown — and in so 
far their lot is a hard one : and the chances of life 
are against them. It is hard upon a man, with 
whose work the whole town is ringing, that not a 
soul should know or care who is the author who so 
delights the public.^ 

The second point, that Thackeray's work until the 
appearance of "The Snobs of England" would not 
have greatly attracted the public, is best approached 
by assuming that everything he had written was known 
to be from his pen. In this case there would have been 
a few more to join with Carlyle and Sterling in appre- 

^ Proser Papers — Oti the Press and the Public. 


ciation, but, it is contended, the vast majority of 
readers would have been just as neglectful. 

One important reason for this is that, while most of 
his contemporaries appealed to the gallery, and on 
occasions were not above playing to it, Thackeray, so 
far from lowering himself to the level of the public, 
held it the duty of the artist to educate it to his own 
intellectual level — a performance painfully slow and 
not at all remunerative to the tutor. Apart from the 
high intellectual level in his writings, nothing would 
induce him to abate one jot of his prejudices to suit the 
taste of the public, though no one knew better what 
would suit the majority of novel-readers.^ 

I suppose as long as novels last, and authors aim 
at interesting their public, there must always be in 
the story a virtuous and gallant hero, a wicked 
monster, his opposite, and a pretty girl who finds 
a champion : bravery and virtue conquer beauty, 
and vice, after seeming to triumph through a certain 
number of pages, is sure to be discomfited in the last 
volume, when justice overtakes him, and honest folks 
come by their own. There never was perhaps a 
greatly popular story but this simple plot was 
carried through it : mere satiric wit is addressed to a 
class of readers quite different to those simple souls 
who laugh and weep over the novel. I fancy very 
few ladies indeed could be brought to like '' Gulliver" 
heartily, and (putting the coarseness and difference 
of manners out of the question) to relish the wonder- 
ful satire of "Jonathan Wild.''^ 

Yet, knowing this, and anxious as he was to obtain 
the approbation of his female readers, Thackeray 
bravely and deliberately continued in his own way, 

^ Lectures on the English Humourists, 
I.— O 

preaching his philosophy, and indulging his satiric 
humour : even the finest work he produced before 
** Vanity Fair" must be included in the same class as 
"Jonathan Wild," a work that never has been, and never 
will be, popular with the general reader. When a critic 
accuses him — as some few still do — of having preached 
his cynical philosophy for profit, let him consider how 
much more profitable it would have been for Thackeray 
to write in the style of Bulwer, or Lever, or Disraeli, as 
he has so clearly shown he could have done. To give 
an example : What success might probably have re- 
warded "The Second Funeral of Napoleon" had he 
written to please the public, instead of presenting the 
work to a hero-loving nation in a form that he knew 
ran counter to the feelings of the book-buyers? From 
that volume, read this extract, in which is indicated 
Thackeray's attitude from the day he began to write 
until he lay down the pen for the last time. 

I feel that you are angry. I can see from here the 
pouting of your lips, and know what you are going 
to say. You are going to say, " I will read no more 
of this Mr. Titmarsh. There is no subject, however 
solemn, but he treats it with flippant irreverence, 
and no character, however great, at whom he does 
not sneer." Ah, my dear, you are young now and 
enthusiastic; and your Titmarsh is old, very old, sad, 
and grey-headed. I have seen a poor mother buy a 
halfpenny wreath at the gate of Montmartre burying- 
ground, and go with it to her little child's grave, 
and hang it there over the humble little stone ; and 
if ever you saw me scorn the mean offering of the 
poor shabby creature, I will give you leave to be as 
angry as you will. . . . Something great and good 
must have been in this man (Napoleon), something 
living and kindly, that has kept his name so cherished 

1846] "MAJOR GAHAGAN" 195 

in the popular memory, and gained him such lasting 
reverence and affection. But, Madam, one may re- 
spect the dead without feeling awestricken at the 
plumes of the hearse ; and I see no reason why one 
should sympathise with the train of mules and 
undertakers, however deep may be their mourning.^ 

The publication of ''Vanity Fair" may be regarded 
as bringing to a close the first part of Thackeray's 
literary career, for the appearance of that book is the 
actual line of division drawn between the bright, 
humorous, but unrecognised, writer for the magazines 
and the successful novelist. Putting aside his reviews 
of books and paintings as well as his short stories, there 
remain for consideration, as the basis upon which his 
earlier reputation was founded, the " Yellowplush Cor- 
respondence ", " Major Gahagan ", *' Catherine ", *' A 
Shabby Genteel Story", ''The Great Hoggarty Dia- 
mond", the " Fitz-Boodle Papers", including " Men's 
Wives" and " Barry Lyndon." 

With the exception of " Major Gahagan," a delight- 
ful extravaganza, and far more amusing than "Mun- 
chausen," there is not another quite pleasant story. 
They are all wonderfully clever ; the literary merit is 
astonishing : the style is mature, the word-pictures are 
delightful, and there are charming touches and beautiful 
tender pictures ; but the predominant feature is in- 
telligence. When has the great reading public admired 
a book only because it is intellectual ? It must be 
admitted that the public is right not wholly to admire 
such, for it is a truism that a story which suggests 
chiefly the cleverness, the wit, and the brilliancy 

^ The Second Funeral of Napoleon : Letter II. 



of the writer is not a complete success : it shows 
there is something wanting in the story. Readers ask 
more than this ; and the taste which demands that the 
writer's genius shall not be thought of until the book is 
laid down, finished, is quite sound. 

There can be no doubt that for some of these early 
works Thackeray drew upon some of his own unhappy 
experiences ; and these latter, together with the cyni- 
cism affected by most young men, give the stories 
a certain harshness that makes them compare unfavour- 
ably with his more mature productions. His purpose 
was honest : he fought against snobbishness and vul- 
garity, against gambling, against swindling company- 
promoters, against the "Jack Sheppard" class of novels 
— indeed, against everything that did not appeal to him 
as simple and honourable. But h6 did not select his 
weapons carefully ; he fought to the death with the 
button off the foil, and it is a fact that many of the 
principal characters in his early books are swindlers, 
scoundrels, hypocrites, or fools. 

Yellowplush, taken from the gutter, sees no reason 
why he should not listen at keyholes, read his master's 
letters, pry into his private affairs, or do a hundred 
other dirty actions. He has no more than a swiftly 
passing pang of remorse when, for a bank-note, he 
sells the master, who, with all his faults, has been too 
good to him. All the people he knows do things of 
this sort, and he sees no cause for shame. Then comes 
the picture of the Shum family's wretched life, — the 
cowardly husband, the bullying wife, the objectionable 
daughter, though out of the gloom looms Altamont, 
a good fellow, and the rather lovable Mary. Look at 


the actors in the Deuceace tragedy — for tragedy it is 
undoubtedly : the scamp Yellowplush, the sharper 
Blewitt, the silly and snobbish Dawkins, the revenge-, 
ful Lady Griffin, the insignificant Jemima, the terrible 
Earl, Deuceace himself, card-sharper, swindler, fortune- 
hunter. Only the foolish Matilda remains, and for her 
loyalty much may be forgiven her: "My Lord, my 
place is with htm.'^ The moral, of course, is that 
roguery comes to a bad end. But the retribution that 
falls upon Deuceace is planned by his father ; and this 
occasions a revulsion of feeling which causes the 
sympathy to be transferred to the swindler until nearly 
the end — the most sensational Thackeray ever wrote. 
There is nothing in his works so terrible, except the 
scenes between the Campaigner and Colonel Newcome. 
The naturalness of the *' Yellowplush Correspondence " 
is its greatest merit. Perhaps its chief fault against 
nature is that so many unpleasant people could scarcely 
be found together. *'I really don't know where I get 
all these rascals for my books," the author said. "I 
have certainly never lived with such people." 

In "Catherine," the history of jail-birds, told by 
one of them, virtuous folk cannot be expected. Mrs. 
Cat, Brock, Galgenstein, Thomas Billings, John Hayes, 
Mrs. Scare, and Ensign Macshane, in their several 
ways, are as bad as bad can be. So vicious are they, 
indeed, that the reader is sorry for Catherine : in such 
company she could hardly be other than she is. It 
must not be forgotten, however, that "Catherine" was 
a satire on the " Newgate Novels." 

"A Shabby Genteel Story," which shows unmis- 
takable signs of the author's development, presents 


another group of objectionable people. It is, perhaps, 
the most displeasing, though certainly not the least 
clever, of all the earlier tales. It opens with a descrip- 
tion of Margate lodging-house society ; and concludes 
with the entrapping into a mock marriage of a loving, 
trusting girl, the family Cinderella. Mr. Gann, a 
ruined tradesman, drunk three nights a week with 
liquor imbibed at the ''Bag o' Nails"; Mrs. Gann, 
a virago ; the Misses Macarty, her two daughters by 
a first marriage, shrews, with genteel pretensions ; the 
tuft-hunting scoundrel, Brandon ; and the blackguard 
Cinqbars are the dramatis personce; — the pleasantest 
character depicted is that of the honest but vulgar 

It is a great relief to turn to ''The Great Hoggarty 
Diamond," for at last on Thackeray's literary horizon, 
though still outnumbered by hypocrites and snobs, 
good simple people are sighted. In the story are a 
dreadful aunt and a swindling company-promoter ; but 
pathos and tenderness are to be noted, especially in 
the handling of Sam's mother and wife ; and the effect 
on the parents of the death of a child is beautifully and 
reverently described. 

Fitz-Boodle, however, is undoubtedly a humorist ; 
and in his "Confessions" are many touches suggest- 
ing the maturer Thackeray. He is a good-hearted 
scamp, and amusing enough. His love-affairs are well 
told, and though Minna Lowe is a little wretch per- 
haps she was forced to be mean by her father and 
her fiance, scoundrels both ; yet Dorothea, silly, sweet 
Dorothea, and that sketch for Blanche Amory, Ottilia, 
are pleasant and interesting. Certainly they are all 


three very real. Most of us have met Dorothea and 
Ottilia, though perhaps our Ottilias have not over- 
eaten themselves — some of us have known Minnas too. 
But Fitz-Boodle cannot be forgiven for writing those 
scandalous chronicles of his friends' private lives — 
'' Men's Wives." One of these is the story of a heart- 
less coquette and a brother's vengeance, ''The 's 

(Executioner's) Wife," but the others tell of mean 
lives. The scoundrel Walker, the blackguard Boro- 
ski, the humbug Sir George, the foolish Ravenswing 
(though she improves with age), the dragon-like Mrs. 
Berry, and the selfish, vain, snobbish, and terribly 
vulgar Mrs. Dennis Haggarty — the history of Dennis 
is a tragedy second only to that of Deuceace — are so 
many people whom one would rather not know, and of 
whom one would certainly rather not read. 

At last comes ''Barry Lyndon," the greatest of all 
these stories, and the first in which the author's genius 
shines unfettered. 

In that strange apologue, Jonathan Wild [Thack- 
eray said in his lecture on Fielding], the author 
takes for a hero the greatest rascal, coward, traitor, 
tyrant, hypocrite, that his wit and experience, both 
large in this matter, could enable him to devise or 
depict ; he accompanies this villain through all the 
transactions of his life, with a grinning deference 
and a wonderful mock respect, and doesn't leave him 
till he is dangling at the gallows, when the satirist 
makes him a low bow and wishes the scoundrel 

This is what Thackeray has done in "Barry Lyndon," 
only he lets his scoundrel die of delirium tremens in the 
nineteenth year of his residence in the Fleet prison, and 


by a most brilliant stroke of genius makes Barry in all 
good faith tell the story of his own adventures. Not so 
good or so pure as ''The Great Hoggarty Diamond" 
is ''Barry Lyndon," but how much grander a con- 
ception ! The humour, the satire, the remorseless 
irony — read the speech where Barry defends cheating 
at cards — the pictures of life, the varied drmnatis per- 
sonce^ place it not far below "Esmond" itself in the 
list of Thackeray's works. There is no short story in 
the language more artistically beautiful than "The 
Princess's Tragedy." But just as "Jonathan Wild" 
is the most neglected of Fielding's works, so "Barry 
Lyndon " is the least read of all Thackeray's. Work 
of genius though it be, it is an unpleasant story, as its 
author fully realised. " You need not read it," he said 
to his eldest daughter ; "you would not like it." 

"Wherever shines the sun, you are sure to find 
Folly basking in it. Knavery is the shadow at Folly's 
heels," Thackeray wrote in his character sketch of 
"Captain Rook and Mr. Pigeon." Yet it seems as if 
he had not quite grasped the fact that there are things 
other than folly or knavery to write about, and that a 
surfeit of rogues has an unpleasant after-affect. 

"Oh! for a little manly, honest, God-relying sim- 
plicity — cheerful, unaffected, and humble ! " ^ he had 
prayed many years before, in one of his earliest re- 
views ; but it was only with "Vanity Fair" that he 
began to give it. 

^ Our Batch of Novels for Christmas i8jy, {Eraser's Magazine, 
January 1838). 



Thackeray, after his wife's illness, leaves Great Coram Street — and lives 
in apartments in Jermyn Street — becomes a frequenter of clubs — the 
Garrick — the Reform — the Athenaeum — his description of Bohemia — 
and his visits to it — haunts that have disappeared — the "Coal Hole" 
— the "Cyder Cellars" — and a description of it in " Pendennis " — 
"Evans's" — Colonel Newcome at the "Cave of Harmony" — the 
Fielding- Club — Our Club — Thackeray's love of "the play" — some 
visits to the theatre as a boy — and at Weimar — the theatre in his 
writing's — " The Wolves and the Lamb." 

WHEN the illness of his wife deprived him 
of a home, Thackeray, who was then about 
thirty years of age, sent his children to his 
mother, now living at Paris, and himself, 
of necessity, lived a bachelor life. He gave up the 
house in Great Coram Street, and rented a room at 
No. 27, Jermyn Street, close to the Museum of Geology 
and within a few doors of Regent Street. There Henry 
Vizetelly, who was then founding the Pictorial Times, 
called on him early in 1843, and happily placed on 
record his impressions of the visit. ''I followed the 
young lodging-house slavey to the very top of the 
house," he has written, ''and after my card had been 
handed in, I was asked to enter the front apartment, 
where a tall, slim individual between thirty and thirty- 
five years of age, with a pleasant, smiling countenance, 



and a bridgeless nose, and clad in dressing-gown of 
decided Parisian cut, rose from a small table standing 
close to the near window to receive me. When he 
stood up the low pitch of the room caused him to look 
even taller than he really was, and his actual height 
was well over six feet. . . . The apartment was an 
exceedingly plainly furnished bedroom, with common 
rush-seated chairs, and painted French bedstead, and 
with neither looking-glass nor prints on the bare, cold, 
cheerless-looking walls. On the table from which Mr. 
Thackeray had risen a white cloth was spread, on which 
was a frugal breakfast-tray, a cup of chocolate and 
some dry toast ; and huddled together at the other end 
were writing materials, two or three numbers oiFraser's 
Magazine, and a few slips of manuscript. I presented 
Mr. Nickisson's letter, and explained the object of my 
visit, when Mr. Thackeray at once undertook to write 
upon art, to review such books as he might fancy, and 
to contribute an occasional article on the Opera, more 
with reference to its frequenters than from a critical 
point of view. So satisfied was he with the three 
guineas offered him for a couple of columns weekly, 
that he jocularly expressed himself willing to sign an 
agreement for life upon these terms. I can only sup- 
pose, from the eager way in which he closed with my 
proposal, that the prospect of an additional hundred 
and sixty pounds to his income was, at that moment, 
anything but a matter of indifference. The humble 
quarters in which he was installed seemed at any rate 
to indicate that, from some reason or other, strict 
economy was just then the order of the day with him."^ 

^ dances Back through Seventy Years. 


Thackeray, of course, in these days, became a con- 
firmed clubman. When he came of age he had been 
elected a member of the Garrick Club, which then had 
its house in King Street, Covent Garden, the present 
building in Garrick Street not being completed until a 
year after his death. This was his favourite club for 
many years : '* We, the happy initiated, never speak of 
it as the Garrick ; to us it is 'the G.', ' the little G.' — 
the dearest place in the world," he declared in a speech 
at one of the Shakespeare birthday dinners. Always 
popular there, in days to come he was the great man of 
the club, and the immense influence he had was shown 
when in the late fifties he quarrelled with Edmund Yates. 
He became a member of the Reform Club in 1840, 
having been proposed by Martin Thackeray and 
seconded by Henry Webbe. New members of the 
Reform are still regaled with descriptions of how the 
great man used to stand in the smoking-room, his back 
to the fire, his legs rather wide apart, his hands thrust 
into the trouser pockets, and his head stiffly thrown 
backward, while he joined in the talk of the men 
occupying the semicircle of chairs in front of him.^ 
He introduced the club into his novels, and described 
it in the ''Snob Papers" and the letters of "Brown 
the Elder " ; and the club returned the compliment after 
his death by purchasing a painting of him by Samuel 
Laurence, and hanging it in a prominent position in 
the Strangers' Room. An amusing story is told of 
Thackeray going into the coffee-room of the Reform, 
and seeing " beans and bacon " on the memi. He was 

^ Sir Wemyss Reid : Some Club Ghosts (CasselFs Magazine, June 


to have dined elsewhere that evening, but he could not 
resist this alluring dish, and, after hastily writing a 
note to his host begging to be excused on the ground 
that he had met an old friend he had not seen for 
many a long day, he sat down at a table, prepared 
thoroughly to enjoy himself. 

Of the Athenaeum Club Thackeray did not become a 
member till later. His name had been entered in the 
Candidates' Book in February 1846, when he was pro- 
posed by the Rev. William Harness and seconded by 
Charles Duller. Soon after, however, he became 
famous, and in 1850, long before he came up for 
election in the ordinary way, his name was suggested 
in committee by Dean Milman, supported by Macaulay 
and Croker, as a person suitable for election under 
rule ii., which provides for the annual introduction, 
without recourse to ballot, of a limited number of 
persons of distinguished eminence in science, litera- 
ture, art, or the public services. The proposal was 
opposed by one committee man, and one voice in 
this matter excludes. Hayward was deputed by Mil- 
man to tell Thackeray, who took the rejection in good 

Thank you for your kind note [Thackeray wrote to 
Hayward, on February i, 1850]. I was quite pre- 
pared for the issue of the kind effort made at the 
Athen^um in my behalf; indeed, as a satirical writer, 
I rather wonder that I have not made more enemies 
than I have. I don't mean enemies in a bad sense, 
but men conscientiously opposed to my style, art, 
opinions, impertinences, and so forth. There must 
be thousands of men to whom the practice of ridicule 
must be very offensive ; doesn't one see such in 
society, or in one's own family? persons whose 


nature was not gifted with a sense of humour. Such 
a man would be wrong not to give me a black-ball, 
or whatever it is called — a negatory nod of his 
honest, respectable, stupid old head. And I submit 
to his verdict without the slightest feeling of ani- 
mosity against my judge. Why, Dr. Johnson would 
certainly have black-balled Fielding, whom he pro- 
nounced ''A dull fellow. Sir, a dull fellow!" and 
why shouldn't my friend at the Athenaeum ? About 
getting in I don't care twopence : but indeed I am 
very much pleased to have had such sureties as 
Hallam and Milman, and to know that the gentlemen 
whom you mention were so generous in their efforts 
to serve me. What does the rest matter? If you 
should ever know the old gentleman (for old I am 
sure he is, steady and respectable) who objects to 
me, give him my best compliments, and say I think 
he was quite right to exercise his judgment honestly, 
and to act according to that reason with which 
heaven has mercifully endowed him. But that he 
would be slow, I wouldn't in the least object to meet 
him ; and he in his turn would think me flippant, 
etc. Enough of these egotisms. Didn't I tell you 
once before, that I feel frightened almost at the 
kindness of people regarding me? May we all be 
honest fellows, and keep our heads from too much 
vanity. Your case is a very different one : yours 
was a stab with a sharp point ; and the wound, I 
know, must have been a most severe one. So much 
the better in you to have borne it as you did. I 
never heard in the least that your honor suffered by 
the injury done you, or that you lost the esteem (how 
should you ?) of any single friend, because an 
enemy dealt you a savage blow. The opponents 
in your case exercised a right to do a wrong ; 
whereas, in the other, my Athenaeum friend has 
done no earthly harm to any mortal, but has estab- 
lished his own character and got a great number of 
kind testimonials to mine.^ 

^ Correspondence of Abraham Hayward, 


Again in the following year Thackeray's name was 
brought forward by his friends, and this time he was 
elected. His name was entered on the roll of the club 
as a barrister, but he was, of course, proposed for the 
distinction as *'the author of 'Vanity Fair', * Pen- 
dennis,' and other well-known works of fiction." 

Thackeray in these days made excursions into Bo- 
hemia, and enjoyed himself hugely ; but he was never 
a Bohemian in the sense that Porson was, or Maginn, 
belonging rather to the more modern type that wears 
the ''boiled shirt" that provoked the scorn of an 
earlier generation, sits in the stalls at a theatre, and is 
a member of at least one reputable club. 

A pleasant land, not fenced with drab Stucco like 
Tyburnia or Belgravia ; not guarded by a huge 
standing army of footmen ; not echoing with noble 
chariots ; not replete with polite chintz drawing- 
rooms and neat tea-tables ; a land over which hangs 
an endless fog, occasioned by much tobacco ; a land 
of chambers, billiard rooms, supper rooms, oysters ; 
a land of song ; a land where soda-water flows freely 
in the morning ; a land of tin dish-covers from 
taverns, and frothing porter ; a land of lotus-eating 
(with lots of cayenne pepper), of pulls on the river, 
of delicious reading of novels, magazines, and saun- 
terings in many studios ; a land where men call each 
other by their Christian names ; where most are old, 
where almost all are young, and where, if a few old- 
sters enter, it is because they have preserved more 
tenderly and carefully than others their youthful 
spirits, and the delightful capacity to be idle. I have 
lost my way to Bohemia now, but it is certain that 
Prague is the most picturesque city in the world. ^ 

So Thackeray wrote lovingly, tenderly, thinking of 
^ Philip. 


the visits he had paid to the happy land where for the 
time being worries and trouble are thrown aside : — 

Sorrows, begfone ! 
Life and its ills, 
Duns and their bills, 
Bid we to flee. 
Come with the dawn, 
Blue-devil sprite, 
Leave us to-nig"ht. 
Round the old tree.^ 

Thackeray's Bohemia has gone, leaving scarcely a 
trace behind. Gone is the little club on the first floor of 
a small old-fashioned tavern in Dean Street, Soho, kept 
by Dicky Moreland, the last man in London to wear 
a pigtail and topboots, where, to the delight of George 
Augustus Sala, Thackeray one night sang ''The 
Mahogany Tree." The little establishment in the 
Strand, beloved of Thackeray, where two elderly maiden 
ladies served fish suppers, has disappeared. Ranelagh 
Gardens has been improved off the face of the map ; 
so has Vauxhall Gardens, with its twenty thousand 
additional lamps burnt every night, where Arthur Pen- 
dennis went with an order that admitted "the Editor 
of the Pall Mall Gazette and friend," and there, 
rescuing Captain Costigan from an awkward predica- 
ment, was rewarded with the acquaintance of pretty 
Fanny Bolton ! 

No longer exists the "Wrekin" in Broad Court, 
Drury Lane, famous for Shrewsbury cakes and Tewkes- 
bury ales, where the little coterie of authors, actors, 
and artists, calling itself the '' Rationals," assembled 
on Saturdays to dine at four o'clock ; nor the old 

^ The Mahogany Tree. 


Gray's Inn Coffee-house, which also had its Thackeray- 
associations. The novelist was at one time seen going 
eastward at an hour of the day when all the rest of the 
world was moving towards the west, and once a curious 
person tracked him to the Gray's Inn Coffee-house, 
and saw him sit down to dinner there in solitary state. 
*'Ah!" said Thackeray, when years after Cordy 
Jeaffreson recalled the incident to him. " That was 
when I was drinking the last of that wonderful bin of 
port. It was rare wine. There were only two dozen 
bottles and a few bottles over, when I came upon the 
remains of that bin, and I forthwith bargained with 
mine host to keep them for me. I drank every bottle 
and every drop of that remainder by myself. I shared 
never a bottle with living man ; and so long as the 
wine lasted, I slipped off to the Gray's Inn Coffee 
House with all possible secrecy short of disguise, 
whenever I thought a dinner and a bottle by myself 
would do me good."^ 

Gone, too, are the '* Coal Hole," the "Cyder 
Cellars," and "Evans's"; but these places deserve 
more than passing mention. The "Coal Hole," 
owned by John Rhodes, was situated in a court off 
the Strand, on the site now occupied by the stage of 
Terry's Theatre, and here Thackeray would often come 
about midnight for a Welsh Rarebit. The "Cyder 
Cellars," managed by John Rhodes's brother William, 
was in Maiden Lane, between the little Jewish 
synagogue and the stage-door of the Adelphi Theatre, 
and it attracted a more distinguished company than 
the "Coal Hole." Porson had made it his house of 

^ J. C. Jeaffreson : A Book of Recollections, Vol. I, p. 288. 


call, and night after night would sit there babbling 
Greek in his cups : after his death his portrait was 
hung in the room. Maginn and most of the " Eraser " 
set were visitors, more or less regular ; and Charles 
Dickens, and ''Disraeli the Younger," and Dr. 
Maguire, and Napoleon III before he became 
President of the French Republic. There in the days 
of his youth Thackeray heard Sloman — the ''Nadab" 
of ''The Newcomes" — sing his improvisations; and 
to him he referred in the National Standard^ 

Sloman repeats the strains his father sang,^ 

and appended to this line a note: "It is needless to 
speak of this eminent vocalist and improvisatore. He 
nightly delights a numerous and respectable audience 
at the Cyder Cellars." Here also, in October 1848, 
Thackeray went, at least twice, " to hear the man sing 
about going to be hanged." This was the once famous 
"Sam Hall," sung by the comedian Ross, who drew 
the town to the "Cyder Cellars." "Sam Hall" was 
the chaunt of a chimney-sweep, who was to be hanged 
for murder the next morning, and, having some faint 
glimmering of the theory of heredity, endeavoured to 
father his crimes on his forbears. 

" My name it Is Sam Hall, 


Chimney-sweep ; 
My name it is Sam Hall, 

My name it is Sam Hall ; 
I've robbed both great and small ; 
And now I pays for all : 

Damn your eyes." 

^ Mr. Braham{Natio7ial Standard, May ii, 1833). 
I.— P 


Each verse ended with the same three words, and 
the expression long survived the song. This popular 
ditty was given with tremendous effect about two 
o'clock in the morning. Albert Smith described the 
"Cyder Cellars" in "The Medical Student" and 
"The Adventures of Mr. Ledbury"; and Thackeray 
gave a description of the place, called for the nonce 
the " Back Kitchen," where George Warrington took 
Arthur Pendennis, and where Tom Sergeant, Clive 
Newcome, and Fred Bayham foregathered. 

Healthy country tradesmen and farmers, in 
London for their business, came and recreated 
themselves with the jolly singing and suppers at 
the Back Kitchen, — squads of young apprentices 
and assistants, the shutters being closed over the 
scene of their labours — came hither, for fresh air 
doubtless, — rakish young medical students, gallant, 
dashing, what is called " loudly" dressed, and (must 
it be owned?) somewhat dirty, — came here, smoking 
and drinking and vociferously applauding the 
songs ; — young University bucks were to be found 
here, too, with that indescribable genteel simper 
which is only learned at the knees of Alma Mater ; — 
and handsome young guardsmen, and florid bucks 
from the St. James's Street Clubs ; — nay ! senators 
English and Irish ; and even members of the House 
of Peers. ^ 

The most famous of all these taverns that were the 
links between the coffee-houses of Addison's time — 
the Will's and Button's — and the modern music-halls 
was Evans's, at the west corner of Covent Garden 
Piazza — the frontage, unaltered through the centuries, 
may be seen in Hogarth's picture, "Morning." 

^ Pendennis, chap. xxxi. 

EVANS'S 211 

** Evans's, late Joy's," was the punning inscription 
on the lamp, though in Thackeray's day the pro- 
prietor was John, invariably called '* Paddy," Green. 
This was a great resort of men about town, and 
among the habitues were Douglas Jerrold, Horace 
Mayhew, Serjeant Ballantine, James Hannay, Lionel 
Lawson, Albert Smith and his brother Arthur, 
George Augustus Sala, and John Leech. At one time 
ribald songs were an element of the programme, as 
those readers of "The Newcomes" are aware who 
know that the '' Cave of Harmony" had for its proto- 
type "Evans's." 

One night Colonel Newcome, with his son Clive, 
came here "to see the wits." A timely warning to the 
landlord from Jones of Trinity that a boy was in the 
room, and a gentleman who was quite a greenhorn, 
and the songs were so carefully selected that "a lady's 
school might have come in and, but for the smell of 
the cigars and brandy and water, have taken no harm 
by what occurred." The Colonel was delighted, 
especially when Nadab, the improvisatore, devoted 
a verse to him and to his son, and he sang a ditty 
himself, "Wapping Old Stairs." Unfortunately for 
the peace of the evening, however. Captain Costigan 
entered, very drunk, and insisted upon singing one of 
his most ribald songs. 

"Silence!" Colonel Newcome roared at the end 
of the second verse of drunken Captain Costigan's 
song at the "Cave of Harmony." "'Go on!'" 
cries the Colonel, in his high voice, trembling with 
anger. " Does any gentleman say ' Go on ' ? Does 
any man who has a wife and sisters, or children at 
home, say " Go on " to such disgusting ribaldry as 


this? Do you dare, Sir, to call yourself a gentle- 
man, or to say you hold the King's commission and 
to sit down amongst Christians and men of honour, 
and defile the ears of young boys with this wicked 
balderdash ? " 

*' Why bring young boys here, old boy?" cries a 
voice of the malcontents. 

"Why? Because I thought I was coming to a 
society of gentlemen," cried out the indignant 
Colonel. "Because I never could have believed 
that Englishmen could meet together and allow a 
man, and an old man, so to disgrace himself. For 
shame, you old wretch ! Go home to your bed, you 
hoary old sinner ! And for my part, I'm not sorry 
that my son should see, for once in his life, to what 
shame and degradation and dishonour, drunkenness 
and whisky may bring a man. Never mind the 
change, sir ! — curse the change ! " says the Colonel, 
facing the amazed waiter. " Keep it till you see me 
in this place again, which will be never — by George, 
never ! " And shouldering his stick, and scowling 
round at the company of scared bacchanalians, the 
indignant gentleman stalked away, his boy after 

Clive seemed rather shamefaced, but I fear the 
rest of the company looked still more foolish. 

' ' A usst, que diahle venait-il faire dans cette 
galere? " says King of Corpus to Jones of Trinity ; 
and Jones gave a shrug of his shoulders, which were 
smarting, perhaps ; for that uplifted cane of the 
Colonel's had somehow fallen on the back of every 
man in the room.^ 

Before "The Newcomes " was written, however, 
songs of an equivocal nature had given place to 
choruses sung by trained choir-boys, whose fresh young 
voices in the old glees of Purcell, Niedermayer, and 
Pearsall, were a source of delight to Thackeray. 

^ The Newcoines, chap. i. 


It was outside ** Evans's" that Lowell, being on a 
visit to London, met the novelist looking so haggard 
and worn that he asked if he were ill. '* Come inside, 
and I'll tell you all about it," said the latter. *' I have 
killed the Colonel." At a table, in a quiet corner 
Thackeray took the manuscript from his pocket, and 
read the chapter that records the death of Colonel 
Newcome. When he came to the end, the tears, that 
had been swelling his lids, trickled down his face, and 
the last word was almost an inarticulate sob. 

To the last Thackeray loved Bohemian gatherings, 
and in the last month of his life went with Leech to 
** Evans's." When he was at the height of his fame, in 
1852, he took an active part in the formation of a club, 
established owing to the impossibility of getting supper 
at a late hour at the Garrick, and he gave it the pleasant, 
convivial title of the Fielding Club. Among the mem- 
bers were Arcedeckne, Jullien, George Henry Lewes, 
Russell the war-correspondent ; Tom Macdonald, the 

Laughing Tom is laughing yet 

of ''The Ballad of Bouillabaisse"; Tom Taylor; 
Pigott, subsequently Examiner of Plays ; Shirley 
Brooks, Charles Lamb Kenney, Talfourd, Baron 
Huddlestone, Serjeant Ballantine, Leigh Murray, John 
Leech, and Albert Smith. The last wrote some verses 
describing tLe members, some lines of which ran : 

"And then there came a mighty man who, 'tis but fair to 
Among the small is affable, though great among the great — 
The good Pendennis.''^ 

^ Charles Mackay : Recollections, p. 300. 


Even so late as 1861 Thackeray joined '* Our Club," 
a literary and social rendezvouSy next door to Clunn's 
Hotel, where the members dined. Many of the Punch 
staff, and others of the novelist's friends belonged to 
*' O.C," as it was called, and here Thackeray was in his 
element. "I cannot conceive him to have ever been 
seen to greater advantage than when he was sitting 
with a party of his congenial comrades at O.C., gossip- 
ing tenderly about dead authors, artists, and actors, or 
cheerily and in the kindliest spirit about living notabili- 
ties," Cordy Jeaffreson has written. "It was very 
pleasant to watch the white-haired veteran, and also to 
hear him (though at best he sang indifferently), whilst 
he trolled forth his favourite ballads touching Little 
Billee and Father Martin Luther. Better still it was 
to regard the radiant gratification of his face, whilst 
Horace May hew sang ' The Mahogany Tree,' perhaps 
the finest and most stirring of Thackeray's social songs, 
or was throwing his soul into the passionate ' Marseil- 

No record of Thackeray's pleasures may omit mention 
of the theatre, which was one of his abiding joys. No 
boy had ever derived more pleasure from this form of 
entertainment ; not even little Rawdon Crawley, one 
of fifty gown-boys in the Chapel of Whitefriars School, 
''thinking, not about the sermon, but about going 
home next Saturday, when his father would certainly 
tip him, and perhaps would take him to the play," can 
have experienced a deeper thrill of delight. In the 
schoolboy's diary comes that glorious announcement : 
''Wednesday, December 27th; Papa took me to the 

1 A Book of Recollections f Vol. I, p. 286. 


Pantomime." That was the red-letter day of young 
Thackeray's year, of the years, indeed, for rarely a 
Boxing-Day came that did not find him at the Panto- 

Very few men in the course of nature can expect 
to see all the pantomimes in one season, but I hope 
to the end of my life I shall never forego reading 
about them in that delicious sheet of the Times which 
appears on the morning after Boxing-Day. Perhaps 
reading is even better than seeing. The best way, 
I think, is to say you are ill, lie in bed, and have the 
paper for two hours, reading all the way down from 
Drury Lane to the Britannia at Hoxton.^ 

It was only in his later years, however, that he was 
content to read about them, for in his youth he never 
missed an opportunity to visit a theatre. In "Vanity 
Fair" he recalled one blissful night when he and 
another Carthusian obtained permission to appear on 
Drury Lane stage when Dowton and Liston played in 
*'The Hypocrite," and a certain august personage was 
in the audience. 

The King ! There he was ! Beef-eaters were 
before the august box. The Marquis of Steyne 
(Lord of the Powder Closet) and other great officers 
of state were behind the chair on which he sat — He 
sat — florid of face, portly of person, covered with 
orders and in a rich curling head of hair. How we 
sang God save him ! How the house rocked and 
shouted with that magnificent music ! How they 
cheered and cried, and waved handkerchiefs ! Ladies 
wept ; mothers clasped their children ; some fainted 
with emotion. People were suffocated in the pit, 
shrieks and groans rising up amidst the writhing 
and shouting mass there of his people who were, 

^ Round about a Christmas Tree. 


and, indeed, showed themselves almost to be, ready- 
to die for him. Yes, we saw him. Fate cannot 
deprive us of that. Others have seen Napoleon. 
Some few still exist who have beheld Frederick the 
Great, Doctor Johnson, Marie Antoinette, etc. — be 
it our reasonable boast to our children that we saw 
George the Good, the Magnificent, the Great. 

At Weimar Thackeray went frequently to the theatre. 
Opera was given there, though the orchestra, under 
the direction of Hummel, was, in his opinion, far 
superior to the singers. During the winter he heard 
"Medea", ''The Barber of Seville", "II Flauto 
Magico", "The Battle of Vittoria", and "Fidelio," 
in the last of which Madame Schroder-Devrient sang. 
He saw "Hernani," and recommended his family to 
read it ; went with an actor to Erfurt to see Schiller's 
"Die Rauber" (which play was thought too patriotic 
and free for the Weimar Court Theatre) ; and admired 
Devrient's magnificent performance of "Franz Moor," 
though he declared, " I never saw anything so horrible 
in my life." During his early visit to Paris he saw 
Mile. Mars in "Valerie" and Madame Dejazet in 
^^ Napoleon a Briejine,'^ as well as Rachel, who was 
trying to revive the taste for Racine ; but Thackeray 
thought she could only succeed in galvanising the 
corpse, not bring it to life : he was glad of this, for, 
he said, he would rather go to see Deburan dancing 
on a rope, " his lines are quite as natural and poetical." 

When he was reading for the bar, "As for theatres, 
I scarcely go more than once a week, which is moder- 
ate for me," he wrote to his mother. " In a few days 
come the pantomimes. Huzza ! " He was always 
happy in a theatre. Once he asked a friend if he 

'^^ ^ ///J ' ^|l|.l^|liA'l\ul 

From a sketch hv Fredcj-ick W'alkc 


loved **the play," and receiving the qualified answer, 
*'Ye-es, I like a good play," *'Oh, get out!" the 
great man retorted. " I said the play. You don't 
even understand what I meanf'' And Edward Fitz- 
Gerald went with him in the pit one night to witness 
a piece which, with its mock sentiment, indifferent 
humour, and ultra-melodramatic scenes bored the poet 
so terribly that he was about to suggest they should 
leave, when Thackeray turned to him, and exclaimed 
delightedly, *' By G— d ! isn't it splendid?" 

In his youth, Thackeray declared, ''the stage was 
covered with angels, who sang, acted, and danced," 
and '* all the dancers were as beautiful as houris " ; and 
humorously he announced his eventual disillusion. 

What is most certain and lamentable is the decay 
of stage beauty since the days of George IV. 
Think of Sontag ! I remember her in "Otello" 
and" Donna del Lago" in '28. I remember being 
behind the scenes at the opera (where numbers of us 
young fellows of fashion used to go) and seeing 
Sontag let her hair fall down over her shoulders 
previous to her murder by Donzelli. Young fellows 
have never seen beauty like that^ heard such a voice, 
seen such hair, such eyes. Don't tell me! A man 
who has been about town since the reign of George 
IV., ought he not to know better than you young 
lads who have seen nothing? The deterioration of 
women is lamentable ; and the conceit of young 
fellows more lamentable still, that they won't see this 
fact, but persist in thinking their time as good as 

The theatre figures largely in Thackeray's writings, 
from the days when he began to contribute to Fraser's 

^ Dc Juventute. 


Magazine. One paper in ''The Paris Sketch Book" 
is entirely devoted to the consideration of ''French 
Dramas and Melodramas," and one of the "Yellow- 
plush Papers" is devoted to a notice of Bulwer Lytton's 
"Sea-Captain." " Mr. Spec." takes his young friend, 
Augustus Jones, to the pantomime at Covent Garden 
Theatre ; and, a dozen years later, Mr. Roundabout 
describes the pantomime to which he went in company 
with Bobby Miseltow : while of that once popular 
dancer Miss Delancy {nee Budge), and of her daughter 
Morgiana (so named after that celebrated part in "The 
Forty Thieves " which Miss Budge performed with 
unbounded applause both at the "Surrey" and at the 
"Wells"), the curious may read in the printed "Con- 
fessions " of that eminent historian of society, George 
Savage Fitz-Boodle, Esq. 

In the novels there is frequent mention of the theatre, 
and nearly everyone goes to the play or the opera. In 
"Vanity Fair," Cuff (whom Dobbin thrashed), the 
great dandy of the Swishtail seminary, was at an 
absurdly youthful age acquainted with the merits of the 
principal actors, preferring Mr. Kean to Mr. Kemble. 
Little George Osborne, too, with Rawson the foot- 
man, visited all the principal theatres of the metropolis, 
knew the names of all the actors from Drury Lane to 
Sadler's Wells, and performed, indeed, many of the 
plays to the Todd family and their youthful friends, 
with West's famous characters, in their pasteboard 

During the Waterloo campaign, everybody in Brus- 
sels went to the opera, where it was almost like being 
in old England, so many familiar British faces were to 


be seen ; but the coup d'osil of the Brussels opera-house 
did not strike Mrs. O'Dowd as being so fine as the 
theatre in Fishamble Street, Dublin, nor was the 
French music at all equal, in her opinion, to the melo- 
dies of her native country. Here it was on a certain 
memorable evening when Mr. and Mrs. George 
Osborne, Dobbin, and Mrs. O'Dowd were in a box 
facing another occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Rawdon 
Crawley and General Tufto, that Becky played Osborne 
against the General — and won them both. Becky had 
her little box on the third tier of the opera-house in 
London, too, and in the crush-room was cut by Lady 
Bareacres and Lady de la Mole, both of whom she had 
known in Brussels, though, after her presentation at 
Court, she made things equal by refusing to recognise 
Lady Crackenbury and Mrs. Washington White, whose 
invitations she had once eagerly sought. She (the 
daughter of a French opera dancer) acted in the char- 
ades at Gaunt House, where she made such a success 
as Clytemnestra ('*Mrs. Rawdon Crawley was quite 
killing in the part," said Lord Steyne), and, as a 
French Marquise in the second charade, sang *'The 
Rose upon my Balcony " from Sir George Thrum's 
opera, ** The Brigand's Wife " — this was a favourite song 
also of "The Ravenswing" (Mrs. Hooker Walker). 
It is hinted that Becky may have been the Madame 
Rebecque whose appearance in the opera of ** La 
Dame Blanche " at Strassburg in 1830 gave rise to a 
furious uproar in the theatre there. Finally, during 
their continental tour, Amelia and her boy, George, 
and Dobbin, and Jos were frequent visitors to the 
Pumpernickel Staats-Theater. 


They went to the opera often of evenings — to those 
snug unassuming dear old operas in the German 
towns, where the noblesse sits and cries and knits 
stockings on the one side, over against the bourgeoisie 
on the other ; and His Transparency the Duke and 
his Transparent family, all very fat and good-natured, 
come and occupy the great box in the middle ; and 
the pit is full of the most elegant slim-waisted officers 
with straw-coloured moustachios, and twopence a day 
on full pay. Here it was that Emmy found her de- 
light, and was introduced for the first time to the 
wonders of Mozart and Cimarosa. The Major's 
musical taste has been before alluded to, and his 
performances on the flute commended. But perhaps 
the chief pleasure he had in these operas was in 
watching Emmy's rapture while listening to them. 
A new world of love and beauty broke upon her when 
she was introduced to those divine compositions: this 
lady had the keenest and finest sensibility, and how 
could she be indifferent when she heard Mozart? 
The tender parts of "Don Juan" awakened in her 
raptures so exquisite that she would ask herself when 
she went to say her prayers of a night, whether it was 
not wicked to feel so much delight as that with which 
''Vedrai Carino" and " Batti Batti" filled her gentle 
little bosom? But the Major, whom she consulted 
upon this head, as her theological adviser (and who 
himself had a pious and reverent soul) said that, for 
his part, every beauty of art and nature made him 
thankful as well as happy ; and that the greatest 
pleasure to be had is listening to fine music, as in 
looking at the stars in the sky, or at a beautiful land- 
scape or picture, was a benefit for which we might 
thank Heaven as sincerely as for any other worldly 

The interest of the earlier part of ''Pendennis" is 
placed almost entirely in stage-land. We are intro- 
duced to the full strength of Mr. Bingley's stock com- 

^ Vanity Fair, chap. Ixii. 


pany at the Theatre Royal, Chatteris, from Mr. Bows 
the first violinist in the orchestra, and Mrs. Dropsicum 
(Bingley's mother-in-law, great in "Macbeth") who 
takes the money at the doors, to the leading lady her- 
self. Miss " Milly"" Fotheringay. Foker and Pendennis 
attended a performance of "The Stranger" in which 
Miss Fotheringay's Mary Haller is supported by the 
Countess Wintersen of Mrs. Bingley, the Baron Stein- 
forth of Garbetts and the Tobias of Goll. Bingley 
played the hero and was attired in light pantaloons 
and Hessian boots and had the stage jewellery on too, 
and allowed his little finger to quiver out of his cloak 
with a sham diamond ring covering the first joint of 
the finger and twiddling in the faces of the pit — this 
had belonged to George Frederick Cooke, who had it 
from Mr. Quin, who may have bought it for a shilling. 
After this Pendennis, falling in love with Miss 
Fotheringay, went to the theatre nearly every night, 
and on the occasion of that lady's Benefit took his 
mother and little Laura and the Rev. Robert Smirke 
to see "Hamlet." Miss Fotheringay, of course, was 
the Ophelia, and Mr. Hornbull from London the 
Hamlet " for this night only," Mr. Bingley modestly con- 
tenting himself with Horatio, reserving his full strength 
for William in "Black Eyed Susan," which was the 
second piece, and in this the beneficiaire played Susan, 
Mr. Goll the Admiral, and Mr. Garbetts Captain Bold- 
weather. Later, through the instrumentality of Major 
Pendennis, Lord Steyne sent down to Chatteris Dolphin, 
the London manager, who also figures in " Lovel the 
Widower" as the employer of the ballet girl, Bessy 
Bellenden. Dolphin, then running the Museum 


Theatre under the patronage of the most noble Marquis, 
came, attended by his secretary William Minns, saw a 
performance of *' Pizarro," and was so delighted with 
Miss Fotheringay's impersonation of Cora that he 
forthwith gave her an engagement to play in London 
at once. And with her departure Pendennis's interest 
in the Chatteris Theatre ceased — and so does ours. 
When Pendennis saw the lady again she was the 
wife of the old heau, Sir Charles Mirabel, and he 
wondered how he could ever have thought he loved 

Space forbids reference to the theatre in the other 
stories, though it figures in all, and especially in 
''Esmond" and "The Virginians"; but before pass- 
ing from the subject, a word must be said of Thackeray's 
first and only serious attempt to write for the stage. 
After his return from the first American tour he sub- 
mitted his comedy, "The Wolves and the Lamb," to 
Buckstone of the Haymarket and then to Wigan of the 
Olympic ; but neither of these managers, despite the 
popularity of the author, would produce it. "I thought 
I could write a play," Thackeray said, sadly, "and I 
find I can't." He was quite right. The play is, of 
course, well written, the dialogue is amusing, and the 
characters admirably drawn ; but there is too much talk 
and too little action. It is essentially for the closet, not 
for the stage : a novel, with dramatic possibilities, cast 
in the form of a comedy. Thackeray eventually took 
this view, for, retaining much of the dialogue, he con- 
verted "The Wolves and the Lamb " into " Lovel the 
Widower." He was never quite convinced, however, 
that the play might not have been successful. 


Is *'Lovel the Widower" the story which you 
propose to dramatise for Miss Sedgwick and Mr. 
Robson? [he wrote to Cecil Howard, on January 20, 
1862]. I wrote it originally as a drama myself, 
having Mr. Robson in my eye for the principal 
character. Mr. Wigan, however, did not think the 
piece suitable for his theatre, and declined it ; as also 
did Mr. Buckstone, unless I would make alterations, 
which I did not choose to do. 

We are going to have a private representation of 
this piece by some of my friends and family, and I 
had it printed to save the trouble of copying. The 
conversations at the commencement seem needlessly 
long, and probably are unsuitable for the stage, but 
these could surely be curtailed ; the last act is so very 
lively and amusing that I cannot but think Mr. Wigan 
and Mr. Buckstone were wrong concerning it. 

Will Mr. Robson have the kindness to read it 
over? It seems to me that he and Miss Sedgwick 
will be excellent representatives of the two principal 


"VANITY FAIR" (1847-1848) 

Thackeray's position in literary circles in 1846 — his connection with 
Punch — his early contributions to that periodical — the proprietors 
dissatisfied with " Miss Tickletoby's Lectures " — which were there- 
fore discontinued — Thackeray takes his place at the Round Table, 
1843 — '^'Jeames's Diary" attracts attention — "The Snobs of Eng- 
land " — and the influence of these papers on Thackeray's reputation 
— Thackeray determined to make a bid for fame — "Vanity Fair" 
begun — the MS. of the novel not "hawked round the town" — 
accepted by Messrs. Bradbury and Evans — Thackeray's letters to 
Aytoun in January 1847 — " Vanity Fair " published in monthly 
numbers — its sales increase — Thackeray's works never so popular 
as those of Dickens — " Currer Bell" dedicates "Jane Eyre" to 
Thackeray — Abraham Hayward praises "Vanity Fair" in the 
Edinburgh Review — the charge of cynicism brought against Thack- 
eray — his defence — his philosophy — the text from which he preached — 
" Vanitas Vanitatum " — the gospel of love — Thackeray's character 
criticised by his contemporaries — he created no heroes or heroines — 
his desire to draw men and women— his characters human — his 
portrait gallery — the novelist's depreciators — his faults as a novelist 
— his asides — his method of writing — his style — his place in English 

WHATEVER the cause, it is a fact that 
at the beginning of 1846 Thackeray's 
work had attracted little attention beyond 
the circle of his friends and his literary 
associates. Indeed, he subsequently remarked that he 
had nearly "come to forty year" before he was recog- 
nised as belonging to a class of writer at all above the 
ordinary contributor to the magazines. Certainly the 




From a draining by Coiait /XOrsny. By />erinissio>i of Major M'illiain It. /.aiiil'cri 

iS47] THACKERAY IN 1846 225 

proprietor of Fraser's Magazine^ though valuing him 
as his contributor, never thought he was likely to be 
anything more than that : ''When a little time before 
' Vanity Fair ' was published, I had asked for per- 
mission to republish some tales from Fraser's Magazine, 
it was given to me with a smile — almost an ironical 
one, as much as to say ' Much good may you get out 
of them,'" Thackeray told Sutherland Edwards some 
years after the novel had made a success, adding 
complacently, ''They bring me in ;^300 a year."^ In- 
deed, before "Vanity Fair" appeared, Thackeray 
realised his position was such that he must bear in 
silence and with a good grace such petty rebuffs and 
discouragement as fell to his lot. 

I have just received and acknowledge with many 
thanks your banker's bill for £2.\. From them and 
from you, I shall always be delighted to receive com- 
munications of this nature [he wrote on October 16, 
1845, to Macvey Napier, the editor of the Edinhurgh 
RevieWy concerning the article on N. P. Willis]. 
From your liberal payment I can't but conclude that 
you reward me not only for labouring, but also for 
being mutilated in your service. I assure you I 
suffered cruelly by the amputation which you were 
obliged to inflict upon my poor dear paper. I mourn 
still — as what father can help doing for his children ? 
— for several lovely jokes and promising facetice, 
which were born and might have lived but for your 
scissors urged by ruthless necessity. I trust, how- 
ever, that there are many more which the future may 
bring forth, and which will meet with more favour 
in your eyes. ... I quite agree with your friend 
who says Willis was too leniently used. O, to think 
of my pet passages gone for ever.^ 

^ H. Sutherland Edwards : Personal Recollections, p. 37. 
^ Selections from the Correspondence of Macvey Napier, p. 499. 
I.— Q 


This is very charming in its playfulness, but it is 
not the letter of a man who has arrived. Consider 
in what terms Thackeray would have protested three 
years later against the mutilation of any review written 
by him ! But the time was not far distant when, as 
John Leech happily put it, Mr. Michael Angelo 
Titmarsh was to appear in his celebrated character 
of Mr. Thackeray. 

Thackeray owed the opportunity to emerge from his 
comparative obscurity to his connection with Punch. 
The first number of that famous periodical appeared 
on July 17, 1841 ; and soon after, to quote Shirley 
Brooks, ''on a good day for himself, the journal, and 
the world, Thackeray found Punch.'''' Edward Fitz- 
Gerald, in May of the following year, begged Thack- 
eray " not to go into Punch yet" ; but fortunately the 
latter disregarded this advice — though the advice was 
good in so far as the paper at the start had been 
ridiculously undercapitalised by the three owners, and 
was not on a sound basis until it was taken over by 
Messrs. Bradbury and Evans. 

Within a few weeks of FitzGerald's warning, in the 
issue for June 18, appeared Thackeray's first contribu- 
tion, "The Legend of Jawbrahim-Heraudee," a skit 
on John Abraham Heraud, a minor poet long since 
forgotten, who was once assistant-editor of Frasei's 
Magazine. " Miss Tickletoby's Lectures on English 
History," which until recently were thought to be 
Thackeray's earliest work for the paper, did not begin 
until a fortnight later. These "Lectures," which 
suggested to Gilbert a Beckett and John Leech the 
idea of the "Comic History of England" and the 


** Comic History of Rome," were not regarded by 
the proprietors as of value to the paper, and, receiv- 
ing a hint of this, Thackeray forthwith discontinued 

Your letter containing an enclosure of ^25 has 
been forwarded to me, and I am obliged to you 
for the remittance [he wrote on September 27, to 
Messrs. Bradbury and Evans, from Halverstown, 
Kildare, which he was visiting in connection with 
''The Irish Sketch Book"]. Mr. Lemon had pre- 
viously written to me to explain the delay, and I had 
also received a letter from Mr. Landells who told me 
what I was sorry to learn, that you were dissatisfied 
with my contributions to Punch. I wish that my 
writings had the good fortune to please every one, 
but all I can do however is to do my best, which has 
been done in this case, just as much as if I had been 
writing for any more dignified periodical. 

But I have no wish to continue the original agree- 
ment made between us, as it is dissatisfactory to you, 
and possibly injurious to your work ; and shall 
gladly cease Mrs. \sic\ Tickletoby's Lectures, hoping 
that you will be able to supply her place with some 
more amusing and lively correspondent. 

I shall pass the winter either in Paris or in 
London where very probably I may find some other 
matter more suitable to the paper, in which case I 
shall make another attempt upon Punch. 

Thackeray soon made another attempt upon Punchy 
but not for some time with anything so ambitious as 
the " Lectures." In 1843 he contributed merely a few 
short pieces and some pictorial initial letters, but his 
support was recognised as of value and on December 16 
he took Albert Smith's place at the Round Table. For 
the next ten years he printed in the pages of Punch 
most of his best work (except, of course, his novels), 


contributing, with a fine indifference, thumbnail draw- 
ings, ballads, parodies, caricatures, political skits, 
social satires, even illustrations to other authors' work. 

The next year (1844) was not eventful in the history 
of Thackeray's connection with Punchy for his chief 
contributions were the ''History of the Next French 
Revolution" and the Fat Contributor's "Travelling 
Notes"; and it was not until Mr. Yellowplush (who 
in the meantime had made a fortune by speculating 
in railway shares) again took up his pen and, over the 
signature of C. Jeames de la Pluche, told the story of 
his adventures, that Thackeray was regarded as one 
of the principal supporters of the periodical. The first 
of the "Jeames Papers" appeared on August 16, 1845, 
and the last instalment of the " Diary" on January 31, 
1846. The papers were topical in so far as they were 
a warning against speculating in railway shares in the 
"boom" engineered by Hudson; but, though this 
drew attention to them, it was the quaint humour and 
social satire that made them so successful that, "A 
witless version of his adventures had been produced at 
the Princess's Theatre, ' without with your leaf or by 
your leaf.' "^ 

People began to ask who was the author of "Jeames," 
and Thackeray's reputation as a humorist was now 
made; but before the impression made by the "Diary" 
upon the readers of Punch faded away, indeed in the 
number following that containing the last instalment 
of the "Diary," began "The Snobs of England," 
which ran week by week until February 27, 1847. 
These amusing papers caught the fancy of the public, 

^ Punch, January 31, 1845. 


and again it was asked who was the writer. When 
it became known that the author of '* Jeames's Diary" 
and of ''The Snobs of England" was one and the 
same person, Thackeray was regarded as a person of 
considerable importance in literary circles, and began 
to taste of the sweets of success. The author never 
had any great affection for the ''Snob Papers," and in 
later years told Motley he hated them and could not 
read a word of them ; but when he was writing the 
series he was interested in them, and, because they 
sent up the circulation of Punch, he was persuaded to 
continue them week by week for a year. It has been 
said that Thackeray saw snobbishness everywhere and 
in everyone : there is something in this contention, 
and colour is given to it by the fact that when "The 
Snobs of England " were issued in book-form seven 
papers were suppressed by the author, because, he 
wrote, " I have found them so stupid, so personal, so 
snobbish in a word." Of the philosophy of "The 
Book of Snobs" something will presently be said, 
but the papers may be read independently of their 
purpose, for they contain many delightful passages 
instinct with humour. Is there anything better in its way 
in any of Thackeray's writings than this conversation 
between the Club Snob, Captain Spitfire, r.n. ("who 
has been refused a ship by the Whigs, by the way "), 
and Mr. Minns, who ever after followed Spitfire about, 
thinking him the greatest and wisest of human beings? 

"Why wasn't the Princess Scragamoffsky at 
Lady Palmerston's party, Minns? Because she 
can't show — and why can't she show? Shall I tell 
you, Minns, why she can't show? The Princess 


Scragamoffsky's back is flayed alive, Minns — I 
tell you it's raw, Sir ! On Tuesday last, at twelve 
o'clock, three drummers of the Preobajinsk regiment 
arrived at Ashburnham House, and at half-past 
twelve, in the yellow drawing-room at the Russian 
Embassy, before the Ambassadress and four ladies'- 
maids, the Greek Papa, and the Secretary of Em- 
bassy, Madame de Scragamoffsky received thirteen 
dozen. She was knouted. Sir — knouted in the midst 
of England — in Berkeley Square, for having said the 
Grand Duchess Olga's hair was red. And Now, 
Sir, you tell me Lord Palmerston ought to continue 
Minns: ''Good God !"i 

Having at last made a reputation, Thackeray, who 
had long since convinced himself of his powers, real- 
ised that now, if ever, was the time to lift himself out 
of the ranks of the magazine writers, and to make a 
supreme effort to take his place as one of the heads of 
his calling. " My boy, I think you can write a maga- 
zine article, and turn out a pretty copy of verses," 
Warrington is made to say to Pendennis, to which the 
latter replies: "By Jove! I'll show you that I am a 
better man than you think for." For Pendennis may 
be read Thackeray, who was resolved to show the 
world there was more in him than it gave him credit 
for ; this resolve resulted in the publication in January 
1847 of the first number of "Vanity Fair." 

A general belief exists to this day that "Vanity Fair" 
was hawked round the town, and offered and rejected 
here and there, before Messrs. Bradbury and Evans, 
the proprietors of Punchy undertook its publication. 
Statements to this effect have been made by many 

^ The Snobs of England — Club Snobs. 

i848] "VANITY FAIR" 231 

writers. Anthony Trollope stated that the monthly 
nurses of periodical literature did not see their way to 
accept "Vanity Fair" as a serial, and that publishers 
fought shy of it ; Sir Frank T. Marzials has remarked 
that '* ' Vanity Fair ' itself, ' Vanity Fair,' one of the un- 
questioned masterpieces of English Literature " was 
refused by the New Monthly Magazme ; and Lady 
Ritchie speaks of the journeys the manuscript made 
to various publishers before it found a firm ready to 
undertake the venture. These statements presuppose 
that the manuscript was complete, but this was not 
the case. The idea of *' Vanity Fair" first came to 
Thackeray when he and his wife were living in Great 
Coram Street, and there, indeed, the story was begun. 

So your poor Titmarsh has made another fiasco 
[he wrote early in 1841 to the friend who saw " The 
Second Funeral of Napoleon " through the press]. 
How are we to take the great stupid public by the 
ears? Never mind ; I think I have something which 
will surprise them yet. ^ 

This, the recipient of the letter remarks, and none 
will dispute, was a reference to "Vanity Fair"; but 
Thackeray did not make much progress with the book, 
for when, some time within the next four years, he 
offered it to Colburn for the New Monthly Magazine^ 
he had only drafted some chapters, which were shown 
to that publisher as the beginning of a story, of which 
even the length was not then determined. ^ "Pencil 
Sketches of English Society," it was called then, for 
the author had not yet thought of the famous title, 

' Cor nhill Magazine, January 1866. 
"^ J. C. Hotten : Thackeray. 


which occurred to him suddenly in the middle of the 
night when he was writing some of the first numbers at 
the '' Old Ship " at Brighton. '' I jumped out of bed," 
he told Miss Perry, "and ran three times round my 
room, uttering as I went, 'Vanity Fair', 'Vanity 
Fair', 'Vanity Fair'!"i 

Thackeray's contributions to the JVew Monthly Maga- 
zine, with the exception of " Major Gahagan," had not 
included any of his best work, and so he was not highly 
valued by the publisher, who would have nothing to do 
with "Pencil Sketches of English Society." Thackeray 
did not abandon the idea of the novel, but he was too 
busy writing for the periodicals to spend time on a 
work that might not be lucrative ; and it was only after 
"The Snobs of England " brought him some degree of 
popularity, that he made another, and this time a suc- 
cessful, effort to arrange for the publication of the 
novel. One day late in 1846 Thackeray called at 
Henry Vizetelly's offices in Peterborough Court, and 
showed him the manuscript of the first chapters of the 
book, and some drawings for it, which he had brought 
with him to show Messrs. Bradbury and Evans. " In 
little more than half an hour," Vizetelly has recorded 
in his autobiography, "Thackeray again made his 
appearance, and, with a beaming face, gleefully in- 
formed me that he had settled the business. ' Brad- 
bury and Evans,' he said, ' accepted so readily that I am 
deuced sorry I didn't ask them for another tenner. I 
am certain they would have given it.' He then ex- 
plained that he had named fifty guineas per part, 
including the two sheets of letter-press, a couple of 

^ A Collection of Letters of W. M. Thackeray, p. 178. 


etchings, and the initials at the commencement of the 
chapters. He reckoned the text, I remember, at no 
more than five-and-twenty shillings a page, the two 
etchings at six guineas each, while as for the few initials 
at the beginning of the chapters, he threw those in. 
Such was Mr. Thackeray's own estimate of his com- 
mercial value as an author and engraver, a.d. 1846. 
I know perfectly well that after the publication com- 
menced much of the remainder of the work was written 
under pressure for and from the printer, and not in- 
frequently the first instalment of * copy ' needed to fill 
the customary thirty-two pages was penned while the 
printer's boy was waiting in the hall at Young Street."^ 
It was arranged that " Vanity Fair," after the manner 
of the works of Dickens and Lever, should be pub- 
lished in monthly numbers, and that the first should 
appear in January 1847. Thackeray, while confident 
of the merits of the novel, was, however, anxious as to 
its success, and thought an article in Blackwood's 
Magazine might help to increase its circulation. 

I think [he wrote on January 2 to William Edmon- 
stone Aytoun — "Sweeter Piper Edina never knew 
than Aytoun, the Bard of the Cavaliers " -J I have 
never had any ambition hitherto, or cared whether 
the world thought my work good or bad ; but now 
the truth forces itself upon me, if the world will once 
take to admiring Titmarsh, all his guineas will be 
multiplied by ten. Guineas are good. I have got 
children, only ten years more to the fore, say, etc.; 
now is the time, my lad, to make your A when the 
sun at length has begun to shine. 

^ Henry Vizetelly : Glances Back through Seventy Years, Vol. I, 
pp. 284-5. 

"^ On Alexandrines. 


Well, I think if I can make a push at the present 
minute — if my friends will shout, Titmarsh for ever ! 
hurrah for, etc., etc., I may go up with a run to a 
pretty fair place in my trade, and be allowed to 
appear before the public among the first fiddles. 
But my tunes must be heard in the streets, and organs 
must grind them. Ha ! Now do you read me? 

Why don't Blackwood give me an article ? Because 
he refused the best story I ever wrote? [''The 
Great Hoggarty Diamond."] Colburn refused the 
present " Novel without a Hero," and if any man at 
Blackwood's or Colburn's, and if any man since — 
fiddle-de-dee. Upon my word and honour I never 
said so much about myself before : but I know this, if 
I had the command of Blackwood^ and a humouristical 
person like Titmarsh should come up, and labour 
hard and honestly (please God) for ten years, I would 
give him a hand. Now, try, like a man, revolving 
these things in your soul, and see if you can't help 
me. . . . And if I can but save a little money, by the 
Lord ! I'll try and keep it. . . . Between this line 
and the above a man has brought me the Times on 
*' The Battle of Life." 'Appy Dickens ! But I love 
Pickwick and Crummies too much to abuse this 
great man. Aliqiiando bonus. And you, young 
man, coming up in the world full of fight, take 
counsel from a venerable and peaceful old gladiator 
who has stripped for many battles. Gad, sir, this 
caution is a very good sign. Do you remember how 
complimentary Scott and Goethe were? I like the 
patriarchal air of some people.^ 

Thackeray was always willing to help other writers, 
when it was possible, by reviewing their books in 
Eraser's Magazine or elsewhere ; and his acquaintances 
were eager to avail themselves of this assistance. 

Don't be displeased at my not reviewing you [he 
wrote to Mr. Bedingfield in 1847]. By jove, I have 

1 Sir Theodore Martin : Life ofW. E. Aytoun, pp. 132-3. 


not time to do half what I ought to do, and have books 
upon books on my table at this minute — all the works 
of private friends who want a criticism. 

It is one thing to give a puff, however, and another 
to ask for it ; and when Thackeray, who had written on 
impulse to Aytoun, reflected upon his request, his pride 
would not permit that his work should attain success 
save directly through its merits. 

I have been thinking of the other matter on which 
I unbosomed myself to you, and withdraw my former 
letter [he wrote to Aytoun on January 13]. Puffs are 
good and the testimony of good men ; but I don't 
think these will make a success for a man, and he 
ought to stand as the public chooses to put him. I 
will try, please God, to do my best, and the money 
will come, perhaps, some day ! Meanwhile a man so 
lucky as myself has no cause to complain. So let all 
puffing alone, though, as you know, I am glad if I 
can have, and deserve, your good opinion. The 
women like '* Vanity Fair," I find, very much, and 
the publishers are quite in good spirits regarding 
that venture. This is all I have to say — in the soli- 
tude of midnight, with a quiet cigar, and the weakest 
gin and water in the world, ruminating over a child's 
ball, from which I have just come, having gone as 
chaperone to my little girls. One of them had her 
hair plaited in two tails, the other had ringlets and 
the most fascinating bows of blue ribbon. It was very 
merry and likewise sentimental. We went in a fly 
quite genteel, and law ! what a comfort it was when it 
was over. Adyou.^ 

*' I wonder whether this will take, the publishers 
accept it, and the world read it," Thackeray said when 
he was writing the early chapters of "Vanity Fair"; 
and though the publishers accepted, it seemed doubtful 

^ Sir Theodore Martin : Life of W. E, Aytoun, p. 134. 


if the world would read it. The first numbers failed to 
attract attention, and the question of stopping the 
publication was actually mooted. Fortunately, later in 
the year, the sale increased by leaps and bounds, and 
the success of the venture was assured. There has 
been much speculation as to the cause of this change 
from failure to brilliant success ; and many reasons 
have been suggested. Some have it that the success 
resulted from a eulogistic article in the Edinburgh 
Review for January, 1S48 ; while others insist that it was 
effected by " Currer Bell's" dedication to Thackeray, 
prefixed to the second edition of "Jane Eyre." 
Thackeray thought the publication of his Christmas 
Book " Mrs. Perkins's Ball " had much to do with it. 

No doubt the review, the dedication especially, and 
the Christmas Book, each and all gave an impetus to 
the sale of the novel ; but the simplest and most probable 
explanation of the rise in circulation of the shilling 
numbers is that the book increases in interest as it goes 
on. This was FitzGerald's belief. " Thackeray is pro- 
gressing greatly in his line : he publishes a novel in 
Nos. — ' Vanity Fair ' — which began dull I thought, but 
gets better every number." However, not everyone 
found the earlier parts dull. " Don't get nervous or think 
about criticism or trouble yourself about the opinions of 
friends," Abraham Hayward wrote after two or three 
numbers had come out; "you have completely beaten 
Dickens out of the inner circle already." And Mrs. 
Carlyle wrote in September (1847) to her husband : " I 
brought away the last four numbers of 'Vanity Fair,' 
and read one of them during the night. Very good 
indeed, beats Dickens out of the world." 


People at this time were accustomed to buy their 
fiction in the green and pink covered monthly parts 
containing, respectively, the novels of Dickens and 
Lever ; and they did not at first take kindly to the less 
exciting, though more artistic, sketches of English 
society offered in the yellow wrappers. Even during 
the time of the greatest success of the monthly issue 
of "Vanity Fair," only about 7000 copies of a number 
were sold, while the circulation of the parts of Dickens's 
novels was frequently so much as 20,000 or 25,000. 
Indeed, Thackeray never approached Dickens in the 
matter of sales, not even in America where his works 
have always been popular. Entering a bookstore in 
South Carolina, Thackeray enquired how many copies 
of "The Newcomes" had been sold. He was in- 
formed that they had taken 300 and that 200 more had 
been ordered. He then asked how many copies of 
" Bleak House" had been sold ; and was told that the 
first order had been for 500, and the repeat order for 
600 copies. " I ask these questions wherever I go," 
he said, "and the answers are the same everywhere." 
He insisted that five copies of Dickens's books sold for 
every one of his. 

It is quite conceivable that " Currer Bell's" dedica- 
tion (dated December 21, 1847) hastened the general 
recognition of the genius of Thackeray ; for the cir- 
culation of "Jane Eyre," the book of the year, was 
very large. The dedication is interesting, not only 
as being characteristic of the writer, but as one of the 
first appreciations of Thackeray that appeared in print. 
"There is a man in our days whose words are not 
framed to tickle delicate ears : who, to my thinking, 


comes before the great ones of society — much as the 
son of Imlah comes before the throned Kings of Judah 
and Israel ; and who speaks truth as deep, with a 
power as prophet-like and as vital — a mien as daunt- 
less and as daring. Is the satirist of 'Vanity Fair' 
admired in high places? I cannot tell ; but I think if 
some of those amongst whom he hurls the Greek fire of 
his sarcasm, and over whom he flashes the levinbrand 
of his denunciation, were to take his warnings in time, 
they or their seed might yet escape a fatal Ramoth- 
Gilead. Why have I alluded to this man? I have 
alluded to him. Reader, because I think I see in him 
an intellect profounder and more unique than his con- 
temporaries have yet recognised ; because I regard 
him as the first social regenerator of the day — as the 
very master of that working corps who would restore 
to rectitude the warped system of things ; because I 
think no commentator in his writings has yet found 
the comparison that suits him, the terms which rightly 
characterise his talent. They say he is like Fielding ; 
they talk of his wit, humour, comic powers. He re- 
sembles Fielding, as an eagle does a vulture : Fielding 
could swoop on carrion, but Thackeray never does. 
His wit is bright, his humour attractive, but both bear 
the same relation to his serious genius that lambent 
steel lightning playing under the edge of the summer 
cloud does to the electric death-spark hid in its womb. 
Finally, I have alluded to Mr. Thackeray because to 
him — if he will accept the tribute of a total stranger — 
I have dedicated this second edition of 'Jane Eyre.' " 

After a few numbers of "Vanity Fair" had ap- 
peared, it was suggested to Abraham Hayward that 


he should write about the novel in the Edinburgh 
Review ; but, though willing to do so, he was so busy 
that he would not bind himself to write the paper : 
thereupon Mrs. Procter undertook to mark passages 
that might be usefully quoted ; and at last Hayward 
consented, basing the review upon the notes supplied 
to him. There can be no doubt of the service Hayward 
rendered. The article is on the whole appreciative, 
though here and there it seems as if the reviewer had 
been afraid that his enthusiasm was too great. " Full 
many a valuable truth has been sent undulating 
through the air by men who have lived and died un- 
known," he wrote. ''At the present moment the 
rising generation are supplied with the best of their 
mental aliment by writers whose names are a dead letter 
to the mass ; and among the most remarkable of these 
is Michael Angelo Titmarsh, alias William Make- 
peace Thackeray. ... A writer with such a pen as 
Mr. Thackeray's is an acquisition of real and high 
value in our literature. High life, middle life, and 
low life are (or very soon will be) pretty nearly the 
same to him ; he has fancy as well as feeling : he can 
laugh or cry without grimacing : he can skim the 
surface, and he can penetrate to the core. Let the 
public give him encouragement, and let him give him- 
self time, and we can fearlessly prophesy that he will 
soon become one of the acknowledged heads of his 
own peculiar walk of literature. . . . 'Vanity Fair' is 
assured of immortality as ninety-nine hundredths of 
modern novels are sure of annihilation." 

It was after the publication of "Vanity Fair" that 


the charge of cynicism first suggested by " The Second 
Funeral of Napoleon " was seriously, and for so many 
years persistently, brought against Thackeray, though 
it was left for Edmund Yates eleven years later to 
declare that the novelist "wrote himself 'cynic' — for 
it pays." To-day, however, Thackeray's admirers are 
more concerned to defend their literary hero against the 
charge of sentimentalism than against that of cynicism, 
yet so often has the latter accusation been repeated, 
that it is impossible altogether to ignore it. Thackeray 
smarted under the indictment: "They call the man 
who wrote that a cyiiic" he exclaimed one evening, 
when he had read to some young men "The Curate's 
Walk " ; and those who understand him can detect the 
ring of bitterness in his voice as he asks : 

Are authors affected by their own works ? I don't 
know about other gentlemen, but if I make a joke 
myself I cry ; if I am writing a pathetic scene, I am 
laughing wildly all the time — at least Tomkins thinks 
so. You know I am such a cynic.^ 

Is the man a cynic who wrote continually in the 
following strain? 

We advance in simplicity and honesty as we ad- 
vance in civilisation, and it is my belief that we 
become better bred and less artificial, and tell more 
truth every day.^ 

Thanks be to Heaven, there are good Samaritans 
in pretty large numbers in the world, and hands 
ready enough to succour a man in misfortune.^ 

1 On a Peal of Bells. 

^ Mr. Brown's Letters — Brown the Younger at a Club, 

* Philip, chap. xxi. 


Is the man a cynic who, waxing satirical at the pomp 
of the second funeral of Napoleon, becomes tender at 
the thought of the mother spending a few of her hard- 
earned sous on a wreath for the little child's grave ; or 
he who, growling at cringing Nudgit, smiles approval 
of the quiet independence of Goldsworthy ?^ But if it 
be cynical to believe that 

Wherever shines the sun you are sure to find 
Folly basking in it ; and Knavery is the shadow at 
Folly's heels ; - 

if it be cynical to declare that grief for a departed 
relative will not last for ever, or that if the deceased 
leave you a fortune you will, after the first pangs are 
over in some degree, be more reconciled to the loss, 
why, if these truisms be cynicisms, then, but then only, 
Thackeray was a cynic. 

If it is difficult to take this charge seriously, the 
statement which often accompanies it, that in Thack- 
eray's eyes all was vanity, though equally indefensible, 
cannot be so lightly dismissed, for it opens up the 
question of Thackeray's philosophy. Thackeray looked 
upon the world with eyes that saw more than is vouch- 
safed to the sight of most men ; and from an early age 
he saw humbug writ large in many things which less 
clear-minded persons took in good faith. 

I read the other day in the papers — Hier S.M. a 
envoye complimenter V Anihassadeur de V Autriche sur 
la mort du Due de Reichstadt [he wrote to his mother 
from Paris just after he came of age]. It is as fine 
a text for a sermon as any in the Bible — this poor 
young man dying, as many say, of poison, and 

1 Mr. Bro7V7i's Letters — Brown the Yotaiger at a Club. 
^ Captain Rook ayid Mr. PigeoJi. 
I. — R 


L(ouis) P(hilippe) presenting his compliments on 
the occasion. Oh, Genius, Glory, Ambition, what 
ought you to learn from this? and what might I not 
teach, only I am hungry and going — to breakfast ! ^ 

In this letter may be detected some of the germs 
from which sprang the feeling that in later days in- 
spired him to preach his weekday sermons against 
pride of purse, and birth, and place, against 
haughtiness, and against those who meanly admire 
mean things. 

I am sick of Court Circulars. I loathe haut-ton 
intelligence. I believe such words as Fashionable, 
Exclusive, Aristocratic, and the like to be wicked 
epithets, that ought to be banished from honest 
vocabularies. A court system that sends men of \ 
genius to the second table I hold to be a Snobbish 
system. A Society that sets up to be polite, and 
ignores Art and Letters, I hold to be a Snobbish 
Society. You, who despise your neighbour, are a 
Snob ; you, who forget your friends, meanly to 
follow after those of higher degree, are a Snob ; 
you, who are ashamed of your poverty, and blush 
for your calling, are a Snob ; as you who boast 
of your pedigree, or are proud of your wealth.^ 

From the novelist the reader has no right to demand ; 
more than a well-written or interesting tale, but from 
the satirist he expects more than a story. Thackeray 
has outlined the aims of the school of authors of which 
he was so prominent a disciple. 

The humorous writer professes to awaken and 
direct your love, your pity, your kindness — your 
scorn for untruth, pretension, imposture — your 
tenderness for the weak, the poor, the oppressed, 

' Merivale and Marzials : Thackeray, p. 93. 
- The Snobs of England, chapter last. 


the unhappy. To the best of his means and ability- 
he comments on all the ordinary actions and passions 
of life almost. He takes upon himself to be the 
weekday preacher, so to speak. ^ 

What, then, we naturally ask, was the text from 

which Thackeray preached ? and the answer is to be 

found in the verses he wrote when he had come to fifty 


O Vanity of Vanities, 

How wayward the decrees of Fate are ; 
How very weak the very wise, 

How very small the very great are ! 

What mean these stale moralities, 

Sir Preacher, from your desk you mumble ? 

Why rail against the great and wise. 

And tire us with your ceaseless grumble ? 

Pray choose us out another text, 
O man morose and narrow-minded ! 

Come turn the page — I read the next. 
And then the next, and still I find it. 

Read here how Wealth aside was thrust, 

And Folly set in place exalted ; 
How Princes footed in the dust 

While lacqueys in the saddle vaulted. 

Though thrice a thousand years are past 
Since David's son, the sad and splendid, 

The weary King Ecclesiast, 

Upon his awful tablets penned it, — 

Methinks the text is never stale. 

And life is every day renewing 
Fresh comments on the old old tale 

Of Folly, Fortune, Glory, Ruin.^ 

^ English Humourists — Swift. - Vanitas Vanitatum. 


There, in small compass, is the sermon that Thackeray 
preached day by day from his pulpit. The world 
seemed to him a sad place, more melancholy than 
mirthful ; and even when in his great prose epic he 
gives his hero his wish, 

Oh ! Vanitas Vanitatiim ! [he cries] Which of us , 
is happy in this world? which of us has his desire? 
or, having it, is satisfied?^ 

Though, it will be seen, he went freely into society, 
and took his full share of the pleasures of the world, he 
passed through life a spectator — as someone put it 
happily, a dignified Dobbin in the larger Vanity Fair 
— bewailing the faults and follies of mankind, and 
roused only from the tender chiding of his fellows when 
he saw a man bullying a woman, a woman taking 
advantage of her weakness to belabour a man, or any 
one person taking unfair advantage of another. 

People there are living and flourishing in the 
world . . . with no reverence except for prosperity, 
and no eye for anything beyond success — faithless, 
hopeless, charityless. Let us have at them, dear 
friends, with might and main.- 

To Thackeray all was not vanity. "He could not| 
have painted 'Vanity Fair' as he has unless Eden: 
had been in his inner eye," George Brimley has written;] 
and it is certain that Thackeray was the first to respect| 
and bow down before such qualities as virtue, simplicity, 
bravery, and unselfishness. When the Rev. Joseph | 
Sortain sent a volume of his sermons to the novelist,, 
the latter, writing in acknowledgment of the gift, enun-| 
ciated his aims as a writer. 

^ Vanity Fair. ^ Ibid, 

i848] HIS AIM AS A WRITER 245 

I shall value your book very much, not only as the 
work of the most accomplished orator I have ever 
heard in my life, but, if you will let me so take it, as 
a token of good-will and interest on your part in my 
own literary pursuits [he wrote on May 15, 1850]. I 
want, too, to say, in my way, that, love and truth 
are the greatest of Heaven's commandments and 
blessings to us ; that the best of us, the many espe- 
cially who pride themselves on their virtue most, are 
wretchedly weak, vain and selfish ; and to preach 
such a charity at least as a common sense of our 
shame and unworthiness might inspire, to us poor 
people. I hope men of my profession do no harm, 
who talk this doctrine out of doors to people in 
drawing-rooms and in the world. Your duty in 
church takes them a step higher, that awful step 
beyond ethics which leads you up to God's revealed 
truth. What a tremendous responsibility his is who 
has that mystery to explain ! What a boon the faith 
which makes it clear to him ! ^ 

Five years later, when "The Newcomes " was 
attacked by the Times for its ''morality and religion," 
he invited Whitwell Elwin to defend him in the 
Quarterly Review. 

With regard to religion, I think, please God, my 
books are written by a God-loving man, and the 
morality — the vanity of success, etc., of all but love 
and goodness, — is not that the teaching Domini 

In " Vanitas Vanitatum," quoted above, Thackeray 
perhaps puts forth the more depressing side of his 
creed, and it is to another set of verses that the student 
of his philosophy must turn to see the bright side. 
In " The End of the Play " Thackeray tells 

' Memorials of the Rev. Joseph Sortain. 

* Whitwell Elwin : Some Eighteenth Century Men of Letters. 


. . . how fate may change and shift ; 

The prize be sometimes with the fool, 

The race not always to the swift. 

The strong may yield, the good may fall, 

The great man be a vulgar clown. 

The knave be lifted over all, 

The kind cast pitilessly down ; 

but, he preached, 

Come wealth or want, come good or ill. 
Let young and old accept their part, 
And bow before the Awful Will, 
And bear it with an honest heart. 
Who misses, or who wins the prize ? 
Go, lose or conquer as you can : 
But if you fail, or if you rise. 
Be each, pray God, a gentleman. 

It has been said, and with truth, that Thackeray 
preached from the text that the wisdom of this world is 
foolishness with God ; and this undoubtedly was one 
of the articles of his creed. There was, however, another 
in which he believed with his whole heart, and this is 
best summed up in the words of Jeremy Taylor : "Love 
is the greatest thing that God can give us : for Himself 
is Love, and it is the greatest thing we can give to 
God ; for it will also give ourselves, and carry with it 
all that is ours." 

Do your duty, he wrote again and again, do your 
duty with an honest heart, be truthful, be natural, be 
humble, be charitable. His love of good and contempt 
of evil is clearly to be discerned in his books, but espe- 
cially in "The Newcomes"; and in every story he 
wrote he preached the gospel of love. 


I cannot help telling the truth as I view it, and 
describing what I see. To describe it otherwise than 
it seems to me would be falsehood in that calling in 
which it has pleased Heaven to place me ; treason to 
that conscience which says that men are weak ; that 
truth must be told ; that faults must be owned ; that 
pardon must be prayed for ; and that Love reigns 
supreme over all.^ 

In that passage is contained the teaching of Thack- 
eray's life and the epitome of his weekday sermons. 

Many bitter attacks have been made upon Thack- 
eray, not only on account of his philosophy but also on 
account of his characters. Mrs. Jameson declared that 
every woman resents the selfish and inane Amelia in 
** Vanity Fair," and regards Laura in " Pendennis " 
as yet a more fatal mistake ; while Lady Castlewood 
arouses her anger in no measured degree. ''The 
virtuous woman, par excellence^ who ' never sins and 
never forgives ' ; who never resents, nor relents, nor 
repents ; the mother who is the rival of her daughter ; 
the mother who for years is the confidante of a man's 
delirious passion for her own child, and then consoles 
him by marrying him herself ! O Mr. Thackeray, this 
will never do ! " Charlotte Bronte thought Thackeray 
"unjust to women — quite unjust"; and Harriet Mar- 
tineau thought that "the first drawback in his books, 
as in his manners, is the impression conveyed by both 
that he can never have known a good and sensible 
woman." Even as Mrs. Henry Potts could scarcely 
find a good woman in Shakespeare's plays, so Mr. 
Frederic Harrison finds it an effort of memory to 
recall the generous and fine natures in Thackeray, and 

' Charity and Humour. 


he complains that all the lovable and affectionate men 
and women have qualities which lower them and tend 
to make them either tiresome or ridiculous. Mr. Har- 
rison says that Esmond is a high-minded, almost heroic, 
gentleman, but glum, a regular kill-joy, and some- 
thing of a prig ; that Colonel Newcome is a noble- 
hearted soldier, but too good for this world, and some- 
what too innocent, too transparently a child of nature ; 
that Warrington, with all his sense and honesty, is 
rough ; that Pendennis is a bit of a puppy ; that Clive 
Newcome is not much of a hero ; that Dobbin is almost 
intended to be a butt. ' ' A more serious defect is a dearth 
in Thackeray of women to love and honour," he adds. 
"Though he has given us over and over again living 
pictures of women of power, intellect, with charm, they 
are all marred by atrocious selfishness, cruelty, ambi- 
tion, like Becky Sharp, Beatrix Esmond, and Lady 
Kew ; or else they have some weakness, silliness, or 
narrowness, which prevents us from at once loving and 
respecting them. Amelia is rather a poor thing, and 
decidedly silly ; we do not really admire Laura Pen- 
dennis ; the Little Sister is somewhat colourless ; Ethel 
Newcome runs great risk of being a spoilt beauty ; and 
about Lady Castlewood, with all her love and devotion, 
there hangs a certain sinister and unnatural taint which 
the world cannot forgive, and perhaps ought not to 

There is this amount of truth in all these adverse com- 
ments, that Thackeray created no heroes or heroines. 
He knew that human nature, or at least that section of 
it that reads novels, cries out for sentiment, for pretty 
ladies and gallant gentlemen making love in the most 


romantic manner under the most romantic circum- 

Yott would have the heroine of your novel so beau- 
tiful that she would charm the captain (or hero, who- 
ever he may be) with her appearance ; surprise and 
confound the bishop with her learning ; outride the 
Squire and get the brush, and, when he fell from his 
horse, whip out a lancet and bleed him ; rescue from 
fever and death the poor cottager's family whom the 
doctor had given up ; make twenty-one at the butts 
with the rifle, when the poor captain only scored 
eighteen ; give him twenty in fifty at billiards and 
beat him ; and draw tears from the professional Italian 
people by her exquisite performance (of voice and 
violoncello) in the evening — I say, if a novelist would 
be popular with ladies — the great novel-readers of 
the world — this is the sort of heroine who would carry 
him through half-a-dozen editions. 

To this desire Thackeray would not pander, for he 
held it his duty to present the world and the people in 
it as he saw them ; and, though no man liked popu- 
larity better, he was not content to purchase it at the 
price of his literary conscience. 

Since the author of "Tom Jones" was buried, no 
writer of fiction among us has been permitted to 
depict to his utmost power a MAN [he said, in the 
preface to " Pendennis "]. We must drape him, and 
give him a certain conventional simper. Society 
will not tolerate the Natural in our Art. Many ladies 
have remonstrated and subscribers left me because, 
in the course of the story, I described a young man 
resisting and affected by temptation. My object was 
to sa.y that he had the passions to feel, and the manli- 
ness and generosity to overcome them. You will not 
hear — it is best not to know it — what moves in the 
real world, what passes in society, in the clubs, 
colleges, messrooms, — what is the life and talk of 


your sons. A little more frankness than is customary 
has been attempted in this story, with no bad desire 
on the writer's part, it is hoped, and with no ill 
consequence to any reader. If truth is not always 
pleasant, at any rate truth is best, from whatever 
chair — from those whence grave writers or thinkers 
argue as from that at which the story-teller sits as he 
concludes his labour and bids his kind reader fare- 

The mistake into which many critics of Thackeray 
have fallen is one of thinking that the author intended 
to make his principal characters heroes and heroines ; 
whereas he presented them merely as men and women 
whom the reader must like or dislike according to his 
tastes. He declared that he disliked everybody in 
"Vanity Fair " except Dobbin and Amelia. 

Our Friend is not Amadis or Sir Charles Grandison 
[he said of Philip Firmin] ; and I don't set him up 
for a moment as a person to be revered or imitated, 
but try to draw him faithfully and as Nature made 

On the other hand, if no man or woman in Thackeray's 
books is perfect, all are human. There is no utterly 
unredeemed scoundrel in any of his books : Sir Francis 
Clavering is so weak that pity rather than hatred is his 
portion ; and Dr. Firmin's moral standpoint is so per- 
verted that, like Barry Lyndon, he never realises, and 
could not be brought to realise, his immorality ; even 
Lord Steyne, debauched old man as he is, is not without 
feeling, since he can sympathise with Major Pendennis's 
distress about Arthur — perhaps Tufton Hunt is the 
worst man Thackeray ever drew. If Thackeray has not 
joined pure goodness to pure intellect, if he has not 


combined in one person the strength of intellect of a 
Becky and the goodness of an Amelia, or the nobility 
of a Henry Esmond or a Thomas Newcome with the 
brilliance of an Arthur Pendennis, it was certainly not 
because he could not do so, or because he was in- 
capable of appreciating a perfect man or woman, but 
because such folk are rarely, if ever, met with in the 

How many novelists are there who have created 
such a gallery of characters as can be collected from 
Thackeray's stories? Mrs. Peggy O'Dowd, "Jos" 
Sedley, Lord Steyne, Becky, Dobbin, and the members 
of the Crawley family ; Major Pendennis, Captain 
Costigan, "the Fotheringay" Bows, Morgan the 
valet, Altamont, Strong, Mirobolant, Blanche Amory, 
Foker, Warrington, Fanny Bolton, old Pendennis the 
apothecary ; Beatrix, Lady Castlewood and her hus- 
band ; Colonel Newcome, Fred Bayham, Charles 
Honeyman, Madame de Florae. . . . The list might 
be extended almost indefinitely. What admirable 
character-drawing ! what insight into men and women ! 
To describe people so truly, so minutely, so humanly 
and so humanely, too, as he has done, requires the 
unfettered genius of a broad-minded man. Someone 
has said that to provide an author for "The Egoist" 
God had first to create a gentleman, and then give him 
genius ; could there be a better basis upon which to 
build a criticism of Thackeray's work? 

It is not only Thackeray's philosophy that has been 
attacked, and his character that has been subjected to 
adverse criticism, but there have been and still are 
writers who refuse to allot to his works a high place in 


the realms of literature. Matthew Arnold did not 
think him a great writer, though he was impelled to 
admit, *'at any rate, his style is that of one" ; all that 
Ruskin had to say of Thackeray (in '' Fors Clavigera") 
is that ^'Thackeray settled like a meat-fly on whatever 
one had for dinner, and made one sick of it " ; and 
to-day, though depreciation of the novelist comes 
mainly from the decadent school, yet only a few months 
since one of the most brilliant of the younger novelists 
stated that he had nothing to learn from Thackeray or 

It is, of course, easy to point out Thackeray's faults 
as a novelist. He was often careless ; he would kill 
a character in one chapter and bring him to life again 
a hundred pages further on, and commit a score of such 
blunders ; and he would often interrupt the narrative 
to give tongue to his own reflections. ''And there is a 
sermon, and a great deal of love and affection from 
Papa," he concluded a letter to his daughters ; and the 
same remark applies to his books. 

Perhaps of all the novel-spinners now extant, the 
present speaker is most addicted to preaching. Does 
he not stop perpetually in his story and begin to 
preach to you ? When he ought to be engaged with 
business, is he not for ever taking the Muse by the 
sleeve, and plaguing her with some of his cynical 
sermons? I cry peccavi loudly and heartily. I tell 
you I would like to be able to write a story which 
should show no egotism whatever — in which there 
should be no reflections, no cynicism, no vulgarity 
(and so forth), but an incident in every other page, a 
villain, a battle, a mystery in every chapter. 

When Allingham said to Thackeray that a certain 


story of Dickens might be improved by a man of 
good taste with a pencil in his hand, by merely scoring 
out this and that, "Young man," interrupted Thack- 
eray, affecting an Irish brogue, "you're threading on 
the tail o' me coat. What you've just said applies 
very much to your humble servant's things." Where- 
upon Allingham and Father Prout protested there 
was not a line too much in Thackeray's novels,^ and, 
as regards the best works of the author, the protest is 
true. It would be a dangerous precedent for any 
writer to follow, but in Thackeray's case, had the story 
been strictly adhered to, the books would have been 
less fascinating ; it is the digressions, the personal 
touches, the little weekday sermons, that invest the 
novels with much of their charm^ — " Like the songs of 
the chorus," says Mr. Andrew Lang, "they bid us 
pause a moment over the wider laws and actions of 
human fate and human life." 

These exquisite interpolations were certainly in part 
due to Thackeray's want of method in the construction 
of his novels. He wrote, as it were, by instinct. 

My Pegasus won't fly so as to let me survey the 
field below me. He has no wings ; he is blind of 
one eye certainly ; he is restive, stubborn, slow ; 
crops a hedge when he ought to be galloping, or 
gallops when he ought to be quiet. He will never 
show off when I want him. Sometimes he goes at 
a pace which surprises me. Sometimes, when I 
most wish him to make the running, the brute turns 
restive. I am obliged to let him take his time. 

His plan was to create mentally two or three of the 
principal characters, and then to write on from number 

1 William Allingham : Diary, p. 78. 


to number, with only a general notion of the course 
he would be taking a few chapters later. " I don't 
control my characters," he told Cordy Jeaffreson ; ''I 
am in their hands, and they take me where they 

I have been surprised at the observations made by 
some of my characters [he wrote in a " Roundabout 
Paper."] It seems as if an occult power was moving 
the pen. The personage does or says something, 
and I ask, " How the dickens did he come to think 
of that?" 

Thus, when someone remonstrated with him for 
having made Esmond marry "his mother-in-law," he 
replied, with a laugh, ''/didn't make him do it; they 
did it themselves." When Whitwell Elwin, suspect- 
ing Thackeray wrote by a sort of instinct, without 
marking the full import of his narrative, said to him, 
"There is probably more in your novels than you are 
aware of," "Yes," replied the novelist, "I have no 
idea where it all comes from. I have never seen the 
persons I describe, nor heard the conversations I put 
down. I am often astonished to read it myself when 
I have got it down on paper. "^ His characters, none 
the less, were very real to him. He was so affected by 
the death of Helen Pendennis that he was found in 
tears. "I wonder what will happen to Pendennis 
and Fanny Bolton," he wrote to Mrs. Brookfield ; 
"writing and sending it to you, it seems as if it were 
true." He told the same correspondent how on a con- 
tinental trip he had been to the Hotel de la Terrasse 

^ Whitwell Elwin: Some Eighteenth Centziry Men of Letters, Vol. I, 
P- 155- 

1848] HIS STYLE 255 

where Becky used to stay and had passed by Captain 
Osborne's lodgings. "I believe perfectly in all the 
people" he added, "and feel quite an interest in the 
inn in which they lived." 

Thackeray's style was founded upon the masters of 
the eighteenth century, and in this respect his books 
bear comparison with Addison and Fielding and 
Steele. Yet his style, which was born with him and 
is visible in his early writings, was almost wholly 
original. "It is more like the result of thinking aloud 
than the style of any other writer," Professor Saints- 
bury has put it happily. " But it is also more than 
this. The writer thinks for himself and for ' the other 
fellow' — for an imaginary interlocutor who makes 
objections, spies the ludicrous side of what has been 
said, and so on."^ 

Very clear is every passage Thackeray wrote, and 
none can fail to grasp the meaning of his every line. 
That, indeed, was the object he always kept before him. 
"The great thing is to make no sentence without 
a meaning to it," he said ; and he would rewrite pages 
of manuscript, substituting simpler words for longer 
ones. Few writers have revised their work more care- 
fully ; and even after the novels were published, when 
a new edition was called for, the author carefully ex- 
amined every page, and made many alterations, both 
trivial and important. 

Thackeray hated enthusiastic writing, but he could 
rise to almost any scene. There are few passages in 

1 Introduction to the Oxford Edition of Thackeray's Works, Vol. I, 
p. xxxi. 

English fiction more tender than the last parting of 
George Osborne and Amelia. 

George came in and looked at her again, entering 
still more softly. By the pale night-lamp he could 
see her sweet, pale face — the purple eye-lids were 
fringed and closed, and one round arm, smooth and 
white, lay outside the coverlet. Good God ! how 
pure she was ; how gentle, how tender, and how 
friendly ! And he, how selfish, brutal, and black 
with crime ! Heart-stained and shame-stricken, he 
stood at the bed's foot, and looked at the sleeping 
girl. How dared he — who was he, to pray for one 
so spotless ! God bless her ! God bless her ! He 
came to the bedside and looked at the hand, the little 
soft hand, lying asleep ; and he bent over the pillow 
noiselessly towards the gentle, pale face. Two fair 
arms closed tenderly round his neck as he stooped 
down. " I am awake, George," the poor child said, 
with a sob fit to break the little heart that nestled so 
closely by his own.^ 

A few days later the foolish, weak young man died 
fighting for his country. 

No more firing was heard at Brussels — the pursuit 
rolled miles away. The darkness came down on the 
field and city : and Amelia was praying for George, 
who was lying on his face, dead, with a bullet through 
his heart. -^ 

Thackeray never wrote anything finer than the 
Waterloo chapters of "Vanity Fair," though very 
beautifully described are the deaths of Helen Pendennis 
and Colonel Newcome ; and it is necessary to go to 
" Esmond " to find passages so exquisite. It is hard 
to find anything to surpass that speech of Lady Castle- 
wood to the Duke of Hamilton, which begins, 

1 Vanity Fair, chap. xxix. '^ Ibid., chap, xxxii. 


i848] "ESMOND" 257 

My daughter may receive presents from the Head 
of our House : my daughter may thankfully take 
kindness from her father's, her mother's, her brother's 
dearest friend ; and be grateful for one more benefit 
besides the thousands we owe him. ^ 

Yet, as is the case with all Thackeray's books, one fine 
scene conjures up memories of many others, and in 
** Esmond" there is the interview in which the hero and 
young Castlewood repudiate the Pretender, and, earlier 
in the story, the welcome extended to her dear Harry 
by Lady Castlewood on his home-coming a year after 
the Viscount's death. 

*' I knew you would come back . . . and to-day, 
Henry, in the anthem, when they sang it, ' When 
the Lord turned the captivity of Zion, we were like 
them that dream,' I thought, yes, like them that 
dream — them that dream. And then it went, ' They 
that sow in tears shall reap in joy ; and he that goeth 
forth and weepeth, shall doubtless come home again 
with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him ' ; I 
looked up from the book and saw you. I was not 
surprised when I saw you. I knew you would come, 
my dear, and saw the gold sunshine round your 
head. . . . Do you know what day it is ? . . . It 
is the 29th of December — it is your birthday ! But 
last year we did not drink it, — no, no. My lord was 
cold, and my Harry was likely to die : and my brain 
was in a fever ; and we had no wine. But now — 
now you are come again, bringing your sheaves with 
you, my dear." She burst into a wild flood of 
weeping as she spoke ; she laughed and sobbed on 
the young man's heart, crying out wildly, ** bringing 
your sheaves with you — your sheaves with you ! " "^ 

Only one further quotation may be allowed, and this 
shall be the description of Esmond's visit to his mother's 

^ Esmond, Book III, chap. iv. ^ Ibid., Book II, chap, vi, 
I.— S 


grave in the convent cemetery at Brussels, the finest 
piece of word-painting that Thackeray ever penned. 

Esmond came to this spot in one sunny evening of 
spring, and saw, amidst a thousand black crosses, 
casting their shadows across the grassy mounds, that 
particular one which marked his mother's resting- 
place. Many more of those poor creatures that 
lay there had adopted that same name, with which 
sorrow had rebaptised her, and which fondly seemed 
to hint their individual story of love and grief. He 
fancied her, in tears and darkness, kneeling at the 
foot of her cross, under which her cares were buried. 
Surely he knelt down, and said his own prayer there, 
not in sorrow so much as in awe (for even his memory 
had no recollection of her), and in pity for the pangs 
which the gentle soul in life had been made to suffer. 
To this cross she brought them ; for this heavenly 
bridegroom she exchanged the husband who had 
wooed her, the traitor who had left her. A thousand 
such hillocks lay round about, the gentle daisies 
springing out of the grass over them, and each 
bearing its cross and requiescat. A nun, veiled in 
black, was kneeling hard by, at a sleeping sister's 
bedside (so fresh made, that the spring had scarce 
had time to spin a coverlid for it) ; beyond the 
cemetery walls you had glimpses of life and the * 
world, and the spires and gables of the city. A w 
bird came down from a roof opposite, and lit first on 
a cross, and then on the grass below it, whence it 
flew away presently with a leaf in its mouth : then 
came a sound as of chanting, from the chapel of the 
sisters hard by : others had long since filled the place 
which poor Mary Magdaleine once had there, were 
kneeling at the same stall, and hearing the same 
hymns and prayers in which her stricken heart had 
found consolation. Might she sleep in peace — might 
she sleep in peace ; and we, too, when our struggles 
and pains are over ! But the earth is the Lord's, as 
the Heaven is ; we are alike his creatures, here and 
yonder. I took a little flower off the hillock, and 


kissed it, and went my way, like the bird that had 
just lighted on the cross by me, back into the world 
again. Silent receptacle of death ! tranquil depth of 
calm, out of reach of tempest and trouble ! I felt as 
one who had been walking below the sea, and treading 
amidst the bones of shipwrecks.^ 

Thackeray once declared frankly that he wished to 
rank as a classical author. His desire has been fully 
realised. To-day his name stands for culture and high 
intelligence, for delicate humrour and exquisite pathos ; 
for great understanding of the inner workings of the 
minds of men and women ; for literary style and for 
pure nervous undefiled English. As the author of 
"Barry Lyndon", "Vanity Fair", " Pendennis," 
"Esmond," and the "Roundabout Papers," he has 
taken his place among the greatest writers of the nine- 
teenth century, and, indeed, in the history of English 
fiction he ranks second only to Henry Fielding. 

^ Esmond, Book II, chap. xiii. 



Thackeray lionised by society — his amusement at being so treated — 
applause an incentive to him — society provides material for his 
writings — speech-making — his "smash" at a Literary Fund Dinner — 
and at Manchester — his speech at the banquet given on his departure 
for America, 1855 — his belief that practice in speaking would enable 
him to express his opinions in the House of Commons — charged with 
tuft-hunting — the disadvantages of success — he loses old friends — 
much improved by success — tributes by Albert Smith, John HoUings- 
head, Frederick Locker-Lampson, Henry Vizetelly, Dr, John Brown 
and the Rev. Whitwell Elwin — attacks on him — his moods — Mrs. J. T. 
Fields' opinion of him — his chanty — and his kindness — interests him- 
self in Louis Marvy and others — his shyness — and his occasional 
savagery — his sense of fun — his conversation — some bans mots and 
impromptus — sadness the keynote to his character. 

EVEN before the last numbers of "Vanity- 
Fair " were published, Thackeray had be- 
come a personage, and his tall figure and 
massive head became a familiar sight in the ; 
dining-rooms and drawing-rooms of society. 

There is no more dangerous or stupefying position 
for a man in life than to be a cock of a small society 
[he wrote about this time]. It prevents his ideas 
from growing ; it renders him intolerably conceited. 
A twopenny-halfpenny Cssar, a Brummagem dandy, 
a coterie philosopher or wit, is pretty sure to be an 
ass ; and, in fine, I lay it down as a maxim that it is 
good for a man to live where he can meet his betters, 
intellectual and social.^ 

^ Air. Broivn's Letters — On Friendship. 


Thackeray liked society and felt at home in it ; but 
for a long time he was amused, though certainly not 
displeased, at the idea of being a great man. "This 
is true fame," he exclaimed gleefully, on receiving an 
anonymous present of half a dozen bottles of a fine old 
brandy ; and he was greatly flattered and much moved 
when Turgueneff called on him without any introduc- 
tion, simply in the character of a foreign admirer of 
his works, and without saying a word about his own 
literary position. At most other tributes, however, he 
was inclined to smile, being essentially a humble- 
minded man, and rather astonished at the fuss the 
world was beginning to make about him.^ 

"I doubt whether Thackeray will be much the 
happier for his success," his old friend, Monckton 
Milnes, wrote in May 1849, 'though I think people 
generally are for satisfied ambition." Applause, how- 
ever, was to Thackeray a glorious incentive. It was 
what had been wanting during the many years of his 
struggles ; and, now it had come, instead of inclining 
him to retire on his laurels, it acted as a spur to further 
effort. Carlyle surmised that since Thackeray had taken 
to cultivate dinner-eating in fashionable houses, his 
work would suffer ; and perhaps it would have been 
better for Thackeray if (as with a trifle of exaggera- 
tion he told Lady Blessington) he had not "reeled 
from dinner party to dinner party, wallowed in turtle, 
and swum in claret and champagne." On the other 
hand, society was useful and necessary to him. "A 
social painter must be of the world which he depicts, 
and native to the manners he portrays," he wrote, when 

^ H. Sutherland Edwards : Recollections, p. 37. 


comparing the accuracy of Leech's drawings with the 
many mistakes of Gillray. ''If I don't go out and 
mingle in society, I can't write," he confided to Mrs. 
Bedingfield. He makes a speech at a Literary Fund 
Dinner and breaks down : "Of what I said I have not 
the slightest idea," he told Mrs. Brookfield ; " but the 
discomfiture will make a good chapter for ' Pendennis. ' " 
He goes to a Sybaritic repast at Spencer Cowper's, and 
sees a chapter or two in some of the guests. It is all a 
matter of temperament. Carlyle could probably not 
have written at all if he had dined out regularly : to 
Thackeray society was as the breath of his nostrils. 
"He was a man of sensibility," Locker-Lampson has 
recorded; "he delighted in luxuriously furnished and 
well-lighted rooms, good music, excellent wines and 
cookery, exhilarating talk, gay and airy gossip, pretty 
women and their toilettes, and refined and noble 
manners, le bon gout, le ris, raimahle liberie! The 
amenities of life and the traditions stimulated his 

There is no doubt Thackeray enjoyed being lion- 
ised ; but there was one serious drawback : being a 
prominent personage in literature and society, he had 
to take the share in speech-making at banquets that 
falls to the lot of those who have raised themselves 
above their fellows. Though a finished lecturer, 
Thackeray was at his worst when he attempted to 
deliver a speech to a large audience. At the Shake- 
speare dinners at the Garrick Club and on similar 
occasions when he felt more or less at home it was not 
so bad : but elsewhere he was terribly self-conscious, 

^ My CoTifidenceSj p, 304. 


and suffered agonies of nervousness before the hour 
arrived. The failure itself was not so bad as the 
anticipation of it, and he could quite light-heartedly 
laugh at himself when the ordeal was over. 

Thackeray, when the ''smash" came, as it usually 
did after the first few sentences of his carefully prepared 
speech, would sit down so calmly, with such a look of 
amused bewilderment, that the audience always gave 
him a kindly smile. Once he made Fields travel with 
him to Manchester to hear the speech he was going to 
make at the founding of the Free Library Institution in 
that city. "All the way down," Fields has recorded, 
" he was discoursing of certain effects he intended to pro- 
duce on the Manchester doges by his eloquent appeals 
to their pockets. This passage was to have great influ- 
ence with the rich merchants, this one with the clergy, 
and so on. He said that although Dickens, and Bul- 
wer, and Sir James Stephen — all eloquent speakers — 
were to precede him, he intended to beat each of them 
on this special occasion. He insisted that I should be 
seated directly in front of him so that I should have the 
full force of his magic eloquence. . . . Sir John Potter, 
who presided, then rose, and after some complimentary 
allusions to the author of ' Vanity Fair,' introduced him 
to the crowd, who received him with ringing plaudits. 
As he rose, he gave me a half-wink from under his 
spectacles, as if to say, ' Now for it ; the others have 
done very well, but I will show 'em a grace beyond the 
reach of their art.' He began in a clear and charming 
manner, and was absolutely perfect for three minutes. 
In the midst of a most earnest and elaborate sentence 
he suddenly stopped, gave a look of comic despair at 


the ceiling, crammed both hands into his trousers 
pockets, and deliberately sat down. . . . He continued 
to sit on the platform in a perfectly composed manner ; 
and when the meeting was over, he said to me, without 
a sign of discomfiture, ' My boy, you have accidentally 
missed hearing one of the finest speeches ever com- 
posed for delivery by a great British orator.'"^ To 
this occasion he referred in a letter to his youngest 
daughter : 

Last week I was away at Manchester when I broke 
down in a speech before three thousand ladies and 
gentlemen. I felt very foolish, but I tried again at 
night, and did better ; and as there is nothing more 
wicked in breaking down in a speech than in slipping 
on a bit of orange-peel and breaking one's nose, why, 
I got up again, and made another speech at night 
without breaking down. It is all custom, and most 
people can no more do it than they can play the piano 
without learning. 

When George Hodder was acting as Thackeray's 
secretary, one morning he found the great man still in 
bed and complaining of a restless night. " I'm sorry 
you do not seem very well this morning," Hodder said. 
" Wei/,'' the unhappy novelist murmured ; " no, I am 
not well. I have got to make that confounded speech 
to-night" (at the annual dinner of the General Theatrical 
Fund)." '' Don't let that trouble you ; you will be all 
right when the time comes," the secretary said sooth- 
ingly. "Nonsense," Thackeray replied; "it won't 
come all right ; I can't make a speech, confound it ! 
That fellow Jackson let me in for this. Why don't they 
get Dickens to take the chair ? He can make a speech 

^ Yesterdays with AntJiors. 


and a good one. . . . Pm of no use. . . . They little 
think how nervous I am ; and Dickens doesn't know 
the meaning of the word."^ 

Thackeray spoke at the dinners of the Literary Fund, 
the Theatrical Fund, and other charitable institutions ; 
and he replied for Literature at a Royal Academy 
dinner and elsewhere. He was one of the stewards of 
the banquet given to Macready at the London Tavern 
on March i, 1851, on the occasion of the actor's retire- 
ment, and he proposed the health of Mrs. Macready 
and her family. 

Thackeray took a great deal of trouble over his 
speech to be delivered at the farewell banquet given to 
him on the eve of his departure for the second visit to 
America. *' It is very kind of my friends to give me a 
dinner," he said, ''but I wish it was over, for such 
things set me trembling. Besides," he exclaimed to 
Mr. Hodder, '' I have to make a speech, and what am I 
to say? Here, take a pen in your hand and sit down, 
and I'll see if I can hammer out something. It's ham- 
mering now ; I'm afraid it will be stammering by-and- 
by." He dictated the speech, and tried to learn it; 
but the speech as delivered, those who were present 
have asserted, fell far short of the speech as written, 
and Thackeray was firmly convinced that he had bun- 
gled the business. 

My dear fellow [he wrote to Macready from New 
York, November 20, 1855], it is about that horrible 
nightmare of a dinner I want to speak to you. You 
must know I intended to say something funny about 
Macbeth and Banquo ; and then to finish off with the 
prettiest compliment and give some notion of the 

^ George Hodder : Merjwries of My Time. 


kindness I was feeling — I blundered in the joke, left 
out the kindness and the compliment — made an awful 
fiasco. If I lose my head when I try speechmaking, 
all is up with me. I say what I don't mean, what I 
don't know afterwards, the Lord forgive me — and you 
must, if I said aught (I don't know for certain that I 
did or didn't) which was unpleasing. I am savage 
sometimes when my heart is at its tenderest, and I 
want to tell you now — and no other words are authen- 
tic, and if I said 'em I deny 'em — that I felt pleased 
and touch'd by your kindness and apologise hereby 
for my own blunders and cordially shake you by the 

No amount of practice will make a great speaker out 
of a man who lacks eloquence and the other essential 
qualities, but it will in course of time enable an in- 
telligent man to say clearly what is in his mind. So 
Thackeray argued, when he offered himself to the 
Oxford electors as their representative in Parliament. 

As to my own opinions on public questions, you 
may have heard them pretty frequently expressed on 
many occasions. I only hope, if you elect me to 
Parliament, I shall be able to obviate the little 
difficulty which has been placarded against me — that 
I could not speak. I own I cannot speak very well, 
but I shall learn. I cannot spin out glib sentences 
by the yard as some people can ; but if I have got 
anything in my mind, if I feel strongly on any 
question, I have, I believe, got brains enough to 
express it. 

Candid friends hinted that Thackeray was becoming 
a tuft-hunter. "Mr. Thackeray has said more, and 
more effectively, about snobs and snobbism than any 
other man," Harriet Martineau has written ; "and yet 

^ W. M. Thackeray : Notes for Speech at Dinner, October ii, iS^g, 
etc. , printed for Major W. H. Lambert, Philadelphia, 1896. 


his frittered life, and his obedience to the call of the 
great, are the observed of all observers. As it is, so it 
must be ; but ' O the pity of it, the pity of it ! ' Great 
and unusual allowance is to be made in his case, I am 
aware ; but this does not lessen the concern occasioned 
by the spectacle of one after another of the aristocracy of 
nature making the Koto to the aristocracy of accident." 
"Thackeray had grown a little blase,^^ Sir Frederick 
Pollock wrote in 1849 ; and some years later : " Thack- 
eray . . . after he became famous, liked no subject so 
well as himself and his books " ; and this, too, after 
Thackeray had humorously complained to Mr. Brook- 
field that at a dinner at the "Star and Garter" with 
the Strutts and Romillys they talked about "Vanity 
Fair" and "Pendennis" almost incessantly, though 
he declared he tried to turn the conversation at least 
ten times, but they would not let him. Very probably 
these people who complained of Thackeray's con- 
versation turning on his books were the very people 
who would not permit the subject to be changed. ^ 
Thackeray was aware of the charges brought against 
him, and replied to them when, in the person of 
"Brown the Elder," he was discoursing on Friendship: 

To know young noblemen and brilliant and 
notorious town-bucks and leaders of fashion, has 
this great disadvantage ; that if you talk about them 
or are seen with them much, you offend all your 
friends of middle life. It makes men envious to 

^ It is interesting in this respect to compare an extract from Macaulay's 
Diary. " I dined at Lady Charlotte Lindsay's with Hallam and Kinglake. 
I am afraid that I talked too much about my book. Yet really the fault 
was not mine. People -would introduce the subject. I will be more 
guarded ; yet how difficult it is to hit the right point ! To turn the con- 
versation might look ungracious and affected." 


see their acquaintances better off than they them- 
selves are. 

Of course he had to pay the inevitable price for his 
social popularity — the loss of some of his friends of 
early life. "I like what are called Bohemians and 
fellows of that sort," he told John Eston Cooke. " I 
have seen all sorts of society — dukes, duchesses, lords 
and ladies, authors, actors, and painters — and taken 
altogether I think I like painters the best, and Bohe- 
mians generally. They are more natural and un- 
conventional ; they wear their hair on their shoulders 
if they want, and dress picturesquely and carelessly."^ 
That is not like the language of a tuft-hunter, nor is 
the following sentiment likely to be expressed by an 
idolater of rank : 

When I see those magnificent dandies yawning 
out of White's or caracoUing in the Park, I like to 
think that Brummell was the greatest of them all, and 
that Brummell's father was a footman. ^ 

Nevertheless he thoroughly admired the je ne sais 
qtioz that marks the gentleman. 

(The Kickleburys) are travelling with Mr. Bloun- 
dell, who was a gentleman once and still retains 
about him some faint odour of that time of bloom. ^ 

It is true poor Plantagenet (Gaunt) is only an 
idiot ... a zany . . . and yet you see somehow that 
he is a gentleman.* 

^ Apple fan's Magazine, September 1S79. 

2 Brummell's father, as a matter of fact, was private secretary to 
Lord Liverpool, and in that capacity amassed a fortune, set up as a 
country gentleman, and entertained Fox, Sheridan, and other notabilities 
at Donning-ton Hall. The Beau's grandfather, however, was a small 
tradesman who let lodgings. 

3 The Kickleburys on the Rhine. 

* Dr. Birch and His Young Friends. 


These are among the lines that Thackeray has 
written, expressive of the high value he placed on 
good breeding. " No doubt a man may be an earl of 
eleven descents, and yet be a pitifully mean creature," 
he once said to Cordy Jeaffreson ; ''all the same for that, 
I am of opinion that it takes three generations to make 
a gentleman."^ But a man may like to be in the 
company of gentlemen without being a snob ! 

It cannot be seriously believed that Thackeray 
neglected the friends of earlier days. We all know 
how it is. If a social equal or inferior passes us in 
the street without a word or recognition, it is because he 
does not see us ; but if a person of much higher rank 
does the same, then it is because he does not wish 
to see us. The same absurd sensitiveness, which 
can only arise from a feeling of uncertainty about 
one's position, may be seen when a family has 
lost its money. They lose their friends, and then to 
the end of the chapter grumble at the perfidy of 
well-to-do people. But is it entirely the fault of the 
friends? More often it is because the unfortunate 
people are on the look out for slights and insults in a 
way that was quite unnatural to them in their days of 
prosperity. Thus it was, no doubt, with many of 
those who found Thackeray bored or cold. 

When a man gets this character (of being haughty 
and supercilious to old acquaintances) he never loses 
it [he defended himself in a letter to his relative, 
Mrs. Bayne]. This opinion once put forth against 
a man, all his friends believe it, accommodate thern- 
selves to the new theory, see coolness where none is 
meant. They won't allow for the time an immensely 

1 J. C. Jeaffreson: A Book of Recollections, Vol. I., p. 250. 


enlarged acquaintance occupies, and fancy I am 
dangling after lords and fine people because I am 
not so much in their drawing-rooms as in former 
days. They don't know in what a whirl a man 
plunges who is engaged in my business. Since I 
began this work (lecturing), besides travelling, read- 
ing, seeing people, dining — when I am forced out 
and long to be quiet — I write at the rate of five 
thousand letters a year. I have a heap before me 
now — six of them are about lectures — one from an 
old gentleman whom I met on the railroad and who 
sends me his fugitive poems. I must read them, 
answer, and compliment the old gentleman. Another 
from a poor widow, in bad spelling, asking for 
help. Nobody knows the work until he is in it ; and 
of course, with all this, old friends hint you are 
changed, you are forsaking us for great people, 
and so forth, and so forth. ^ 

Major Dwyer thought that no man was ever so much 
improved by success as Thackeray, and testimony to 
the effect that the novelist was a most agreeable com- 
panion in the days of his prosperity has been borne by 
friends and acquaintances innumerable, both in Eng- 
land and the United States. ^' He is a very jolly 
fellow, and no 'High Art 'about him," said Albert 
Smith,- and this, coming from a man cast in a very 
different mould, is high praise ; and John Hollings- 
head has written, ''What I saw of Thackeray im- 
pressed me with his gentleness and charity. Far from 
being a cynic, he was more like a good-natured school- 
boy."^ "Thackeray drew many unto him, for he had 
engaging as well as fine qualities. He was open- 
handed and kind-hearted. He had not an overween- 

1 Merivale and Marizals : Thackeray, p. 150. 

2 J. C. JeafFreson : A Book of Recollections, Vol. I, p. 285. 
^ My Lifetime, 


ing opinion of his literary consequence, and he was 
generous as regarded the people whom the world chose 
to call his rivals."^ Thus Frederick Locker-Lampson, 
who knew him well ; and that practical man of affairs, 
Henry Vizetelly, has contributed his portion of praise: 
**His placid temper and pleasant courtesy charmed 
all who came into contact with him. . . . Thackeray 
was reticent in expressing his opinion upon people 
whom he did not like, and very rarely said ill-natured 
things about anyone."^ *' He is a finer, larger, loveabler 
man, or rather fellow, than ever," Dr. John Brown 
wrote to Lady Trevelyan ; ' and the Rev. Whitwell 
Elwin declared, "I can never speak of him without a 
pang, for I loved him. He was a fine, noble man. 
His manners were as simple as a child's. He had no 
assumption, no affectation."* 

Thackeray had some enemies, of course, as who 
among the fortunate has not? Has ever a successful 
man gone through life without stirring up angry 
feelings or arousing jealousy? Dr. Gordon Hake, 
Serjeant Ballantine, and others have said unkind 
things of him ; but the majority of those who disliked 
him did so because they did not understand him. 
''Those who knew him best," said George Hodder, 
*' loved him best." He was a sick, as well as an over- 
worked, man, often suffering pain from an internal 
disease, and he could not always be smiling. One 
day he passed a friend with the curtest nod: "Who 

^ Afy Confidences. 

^ Glajices Back Through Seventy Years. 
' Letters of Dr. John Brown, p. 113. 

* Whitwell Elwin : Sorne Eighteenth Century Men of Letters, Vol. I, 
P- 157- 


would have thought," said the other, ''that we were 
up till four o'clock this morning together? He sang 
his 'Dr. Luther' and was the liveliest of us all."^ 
Years later he was to meet Anthony Trollope for the 
first time at the inaugural dinner given by George 
Smith to the contributors of the Cornhill Magazine. 
Both he and Trollope had looked forward to the 
occasion ; but when the night came, and the pub- 
lisher introduced Trollope, Thackeray said abruptly, 
" How d'ye do?" and turned on his heel.^ These are 
instances of what Maunsell B. Field called the great 
man's " moods of surly incivility" ; but in reality they 
were merely the outcome of intense physical agony. 
It is more pleasant to turn to the picture of him con- 
jured up by Mrs. J. F. Fields. " I seem to see one 
kindly face — large, full of humour, full of human 
sympathy. The face belongs to Thackeray, and I can 
recall his goodness to one who, although married 
already, was hardly more than 'a slip of a girl,' and 
very much afraid of him — afraid, let me say, rather of 
the idea of him, the great author and famous lecturer, 
who was making his crowded audiences laugh and cry 
at his simple word every evening ; the great man of 
the moment whom everybody was ' running after,' 
yet of whom they said that he liked his friends so 
much better than all their noise about himself, that 
he was always trying to escape from it — and here he 
was ! — coming to see — whom ? Well, it appears it did 
not so much matter, for he was bent on kindnesses. 

^ Blanchard Jerrold : The Best of All Good Company. 
' G. M. Smith: Our Birth and Parentage (^Cornhill Magazine, 
January 1901). 


and he took it all in at a glance, and sat down by the 
window, and drew me to him, and told me about his 
' little girls ' at home ; how he walked down the wrong 
side of Piccadilly one day, and so lost what money 
he had had out of his pocket — money which belonged 
properly to these same dear girls of his ; therefore it 
came about that he made up his mind, though it was 
hard enough to come away from them, to get some- 
thing to take back to them in place of what he had 
lost ; and how they were the dearest girls in the world, 
and when I came to England I should find them more 
like old friends, and should have somebody, I am sure, 
he thought, to * play with,' though, under the circum- 
stances, he could not use just those words ! And then, 
soon after, he went away, leaving a great train of 
sunshine and kindness behind him which has never 

There is the real Thackeray, the Thackeray who 
was so lavish of kindness, and lavish, too, not only 
of words, but of money. To be in trouble was a sure 
passport to his heart. His charity was only bounded 
by his means ; he did not wait to be asked to do a 
favour ; he loved to anticipate, not merely the request, 
but even the wish. How delicately, too, he dispensed 
his " loans," as he called the alms he bestowed upon 
those less fortunate than himself. Lady Ritchie has 
related how he filled a pill-box with Napoleons, wrote 
on it "one to be taken occasionally when required," 
and gave it to his mother to send to a distressed gentle- 
woman. We are told by Miss Perry how he visited 
an old acquaintance in very reduced circumstances, 

1 A Shelf of Old Books. 
1.— T 


administered some little rebuke on the thoughtlessness 
of not laying by some of the easily gained gold of 
youth or manhood and, slipping into a blotting-book 
a hundred-pound note, hurried away. '*I never saw 

him do it," said poor old P . " I was very angry 

because he said I had been a reckless old goose — and 
then a hundred pounds falls out of my writing-book. 
God bless him !" 

I am sincerely sorry to hear of your position [he 
wrote to George Hodder, enclosing a cheque], and 
send this contribution which came so opportunely 
from another friend, whom I was enabled once to 
help. When you are well-to-do again I know you 
will pay it back, and I daresay somebody else will 
want the money, which is heartily at your service. 

The money *' which came so opportunely from an- 
other friend " was probably a pious fiction invented to 
spare the recipient's feelings and to make the lender's 
generosity appear less considerable than it was, for he 
employed this method more than once. One morning 
he knocked at the door of Horace Mayhew's chambers 
in Regent Street, crying from without, ''It's no use, 
Horry Mayhew ; open the door." On entering he said 
cheerfully, "Well, young gentleman, you'll admit an 
old fogy," and when leaving he remarked: ''By the 
way, how stupid ! I was going away without doing 
part of the business of my visit. You spoke the other 
day of poor George. Somebody — most unaccountably 
— has returned me a five-pound note I lent him long 
ago. I didn't expect it. So just hand it to George, 
and tell him when his pocket will bear it to pass it on 
to some poor fellow of his acquaintance. By-bye ! " 


and he was gone. Trollope has related how he met 
Thackeray in Whitehall and told him a sad story of a 
mutual friend who required a loan of ;;^2000 to save 
him from utter ruin. " Do you mean to say that I 
am to find ;^2000?" Thackeray said, with an oath. 
Trollope hastened to explain that he had not sug- 
gested that, he had thought merely that they might 
discuss the matter. '*Then," says Trollope, 'Uhere 
came over his face a peculiar smile, and a wink in his 
eye, and he whispered his suggestion, as though half 
ashamed of his meanness, 'I'll go half,' he said, 'if 
anybody will do the rest.'"^ Truly, as Trollope re- 
marked, his generosity was overflowing. 

Thackeray, who always found pleasure in hearing ot 
kind deeds, and telling of them, was always himself 
doing kind things, begging somebody to ask a bishop 
for a living for a curate who wanted to get married, 
recommending Marguerite Power, the niece of his friend 
Lady Blessington, for the post of Paris Correspondent 
of the Illustrated Lo7idon News, or endeavouring to 
set an impoverished French artist, Louis Marvy, on 
his feet. 

In large gatherings Thackeray, who was an intensely 
shy man, was inclined to be satirical and severe in his 
conversation, and Lady Dorothy Nevill has told us how 
she was afraid of him ever after she heard him adminis- 
ter a terrible verbal castigation to someone who had 
incurred his displeasure. When, at a dinner party, a 
dignified man of letters with a broken nose discoursed 
persistently of love, ''What has the world come to?" 
said Thackeray aloud, "when two broken-nosed old 

^ Anthony Trollope : Thackeray, p. 60. 


fogies like you and me sit talking about love to each 
other " ; and, in more bitter vein, when a group of 
members of the Reform Club were gossiping unkindly 
of another, recently deceased, "That's right," said 
Thackeray. "Kick him. Trampleon him. He'sdead!'" 
He reserved these onslaughts for those whom he con- 
sidered stupid people, and as such he classed those who 
"do not know how to laugh, are always pompous and 
self-conceited, i.e.^ bigoted, i.e.^ cruel, i.e.^ ungentle, 
uncharitable, unchristian." When he found he had 
made a mistake and thought ill of one who deserved 
otherwise, he was always anxious without delay to make 
the amende honorable. He had always disliked John 
Wilson Croker, but when, after that unpopular person 
was dead, someone told Thackeray how Croker had 
begged his wife to seek out some homeless boys, and 
let them stay with them from Saturday to Monday, 
saying, " They will destroy your flower-beds and upset 
my inkstands, but we can help them more than they 
can hurt us," Thackeray choked, and forthwith went to 
Mrs. Croker and asked her pardon for ever having 
entertained unkindly thoughts of her husband. 

Thackeray had a great sense of fun and was always 
ready to indulge it. This broader humour seldom 
appears in his writings after " Major Gahagan's Remi- 
niscences," but the source from which that delightful 
burlesque sprang, never dried up, and his love of 
buffoonery lasted until the end. Frederick Locker- 
Lampson remembered seeing him pirouette, wave his 
arms majestically, and declaim in burlesque — an inten- 
tionally awkward imitation of the ridiculous manner 
that is sometimes met with in French opera ; and he 


also recalled an occasion when he was talking to 
Thackeray's daughters, their father put on his visitor's 
hat, many sizes too small for him, and strutted about 
flourishing it in the old Lord Cardigan style. 

Dean Hole has said that Thackeray was the best 
talker he ever listened to and that when it pleased him 
to talk, " he said so many good things . . . that they 
trod down and suffocated each other" ; and, wrote Mrs. 
Browning from Rome in 1854, **If anybody wants 
small talk by handfuls, of glittering dust swept out of 
salonSy here's Mr. Thackeray." He was not a wit in 
the sense that Sydney Smith and Oscar Wilde were ; 
but there can be no doubt that he must have said far 
more good things than have been recorded. When he 
saw in a window off the Strand the legend, ** Mutual 
Loan Fund Association," and a companion wondered 
what that meant, ''Oh, it means," said the novelist, 
**that they have got no money and lend it to each 

other." ''If that d d irreligious fish had been to 

afternoon church," he remarked to Sir Mountstuart 
Grant Duff, with whom he was angling one Sunday, 
" we should not have caught him." It was on William 
Palmer Hale, famous for the quantity of beer he could 
drink, he pronounced this epitaph: "Take him for 
half-and-half, we shall not look upon his like again." 
When outside a shop he saw two tubs of oysters side 
by side, labelled respectively a shilling and fifteen pence 
a dozen, " How these," he murmured, looking at the 
cheaper variety, "must hate the others." 

Charles Mackay has put it on record that Thackeray 
was the best improvisatore of his time, and certainly 
his fondness for the exercise was perennial. He was 


always rhyming from his school-days to the end of his 
life. A lady begged him to write a verse in her album 
— a practice to which he was always averse. Turning 
over the pages, however, he found the following : 

" Mont Blanc is the Monarch of Mountains, 
They crowned him long ago, 
But who they got to put it on, 
Nobody seems to know. 

"Albert Smith." 

Then, yielding to temptation, he took up a pen and 
wrote immediately underneath : 


I know that Albert wrote in a hurry — 

To criticise I scarce presume ; 
But yet, methinks that Lindley Murray 

Instead of '* who " had written " whom." 

W. M. Thackeray. 


When he saw the lines that ''Soapy Sam" Wilber- 
force, Bishop of Oxford, had written on the unorthodox 
Bishop Colenso, jf 

'* There once was a Bishop of Natal, 
Whose doubts on the Deluge were fatal ; ' 

Said the infidel Zulu, 
* D'you believe this — you fool, you ? ' 
* No, I don't,' said the Bishop of Natal." ' 

Thackeray at once capped it with : 

There is the bold Bishop Colenso, 
Whose heresies seem to offend so. 

Quoth Sam of the Soap, 

*' Bring fagot and rope ; 
For we know he a'nt got no friends, oh ! " 



** Little Billee" was chanted off impromptu at a 
supper-party at Rome ; and there are many other, 
though minor, instances of the kind. When at dinner 
one day, a neighbour, knowing him to be a gourmet, 
asked him which part of the fowl he preferred, with 
portentous gravity he answered : 

Oh ! what's the best part of a fowl ? 

My own Anastasia cried : 
Then, giving- a terrible howl, 

She turned on her stomach and died. 

Mere fun, mere farcical nonsense, he did not, of 
course, value highly. When he was asked if ''Vanity 
Fair" would be funny, he retorted that it would be 
humorous. He had, indeed, the same keen sense of 
the ridiculous that he bestowed upon Becky Sharp ; 
and it was this, probably, that caused him at times 
to under-estimate the value of even his greatest books : 
he could not always take himself seriously as a great 
writer, and he was inclined to doubt the merits of his 
creations. As with every true humorist, the keynote 
to his character is sadness. " In much wisdom is 
much grief." And, above all else, Thackeray was 
wise and very sad. He told Dr. John Brown how, on 
one occasion at Paris, he found himself in a great 
crowded salon, and looking from one end, across a sea 
of heads, being in Swift's place of calm in a crowd 
(" an inch or two above it"), he saw at the other end 
a strange visage, staring at him with an expression of 
comical woebegoneness ; and how, after a little while, 
he found this rueful being was himself in the mirror. 
And he liked to relate the pathetic story of the sad- 


looking man in a decline, who, consulting a great 
physician, was recommended to go to the pantomime, 
where the sight of Harlequin would be sure to do him 
good, and cheer him up. " I am Harlequin," said the 
patient simply. 

Thackeray loved his home and his friends, and 
books, drawings and music : he enjoyed a good dinner, 
and sometimes a jovial party ; but Vanity Fair seemed 
to him a sad place. 

A man with a reflective turn of mind, walking 
through an exhibition of this sort (Vanity Fair), will 
not be oppressed, I take it, by his own or other 
people's hilarity. An episode of humour or kindness 
touches and amuses him here and there ; — a pretty 
child looking at a gingerbread stall ; a pretty girl 
blushing whilst her lover talks to her and chooses 
her fairing ; poor Tom Fool, yonder behind the wag- 
gon, mumbling his bone with the honest family which 
lives by his tumbling ; but the general impression is 
one more melancholy than mirthful. When you 
come home, you sit down, in a sober, contemplative, 
not uncharitable frame of mind, and apply yourself 
to your books or your business.^ 

The world called to him, as it had done to Cruik- 
shank, and so many others, '* Make us laugh, or you 
and your children starve." He did his best, but he 
could not assume the role of farceur for very long at 
a time. He might be cutting the most amusing jokes 
in a private company, or writing the most amusing 
verses for the public ; but generally there can be 
found, under the surface, a touch of pathos, or of 

^ Vanity Fair — Before the Curtain. 


What funny things I've written when fit to hang 
myself [he said in one letter to Mrs. Brookfield ; and 
in another] : I did the doggerel verses, which were 
running in my head when I last wrote you, and they 
are very lively. You'd say the author must have 
been in the height of good spirits ! . . . No, you 
wouldn't, knowing his glum habit, and dismal views 
of life generally. 

This he repeated in *'The Pen and the Album": 

I've helped him to pen many a line for bread ; 

To joke, with sorrow aching in his heart ; 
And make your laughter when his own heart bled. 

Fate, dealing harshly with him, had made memory 
painful, and it distressed him to read his own writings. 

Our books are diaries, in which our own feelings 
must of necessity be set down. As we look to the 
page written last month, or ten years ago, we re- 
member the day and its events; the child ill, mayhap, 
in the adjoining room, and the doubts and fears 
which racked the brain as it still pursued its work ; 
the dear old friend who read the commencement 
of the tale, and whose gentle hand shall be laid in 
ours no more. I own for my part that, in reading 
pages which this hand penned formerly, I often lose 
sight of the text under my eyes. It is not the words 
I see, but that past day ; that bygone page of life's 
history ; that tragedy, comedy it may be, which our 
little home company was enacting ; that merry- 
making which we shared ; that funeral which we 
followed ; that bitter, bitter grief which we buried,^ 

J De Finibus, 


PUNCH (1847-1854) 

Thackeray's earnings in 1848 — success of "Vanity Fair" in book-form 
— Thackeray resigns the assistant-editorship of the Examiner — and 
retires from the staff of Frasers Magazhie — his Christmas Books — the 
Times attack on *' The Kickleburys on the Rhine " — and Thackeray's 
reply, "An Essay on Thunder and Small Beer" — Thackeray sensitive 
to criticism — but makes jokes at his own expense — writes again for 
the Morning Chronicle — his contributions to Punch from 1847 — 
" Punch's Prize Novelists " — " Mr. Brown's Letters to a Young Man 
About Town" — the " Proser Papers" — withdraws from Punch in 
1854 — his reference to his withdrawal in his article on John Leech — a 
slip of the pen — his letter to the proprietors of Punch concerning his 
resignation — he attends the dinners to the end — his indebtedness 
to Punch — Punch's tribute to him — and his to Punch — his friends on 
the staff — Douglas Jerrold — Thackeray's Ballads — " Bow Street 
Ballads" — " Lyra Hibernica" — his limitations as a writer of verse — 
his sense of parody — and of tenderness — " The Cane-Bottomed 
Chair" — " St. Sophia of Kioff " — " The Chronicle of the Drum " — his 
merits as a writer of light and humorous verse. 

WHEN ''Vanity Fair" was coming out 
Thackeray told his mother that while 
this novel greatly enhanced his reputa- 
tion, it did not materially increase his 
income. That income, however, was not contemp- 
tible : ''Vanity Fair" alone brought him in fifty 
guineas a month, the profits of his Christmas Books 
and of the "Snob Papers" and "The Great Hoggarty 
Diamond " in book-form were considerable, and he 
received a handsome salary from Punchy a§ well as 


From a painting by Samuel Laui-ence in the National Portrait Gallery 

1847] "MRS. PERKINS'S BALL" 283 

remuneration for articles and reviews elsewhere : he 
must have been earning at least ;!^iooo a year. That 
he was soon making more than that there can be no 
doubt, for 1500 copies of ''Vanity Fair" in book-form 
were sold immediately after publication, and for " Pen- 
dennis" he received more money than for the earlier 
story. He was doing well enough in 1848 to resign 
the assistant-editorship of the Exajnmer which, at a 
salary of ;^20o a year, he had held since 1844 under the 
editorship of Albany Fonblanque. 

From Eraser's Magazine he had retired on the eve 
of the publication of ''Vanity Fair," and he took his 
farewell of the readers he had delighted for more than 
ten years with story, verse, reviews, and sketches, in 
the following characteristic passage on "the very last 
page of the very last sheet " of the number for January 

Ha! what have we here? — M. A. Titmarsh's 
Christmas Book — Mrs, Perkinses Ball. Dedicated 
to the Mulligan of Ballymulligan. Ballymulligan ! 
Bally fiddlestick! What jj/om, too, Mr. Titmarsh? 
You, you sneering wretch, setting up a Christmas- 
book of your own? This, then, is the meaning of 
your savage feelings towards "the minor fiddlers" ! 
Is your kit, sirrah, any bigger than theirs? You, 
who in the columns of this very Magazine, have 
sneered at the works of so many painters, look at 
your own performances ! 

Some of your folks have scarcely more legs than 
Miss Biffin ; they have fins instead of hands, — they 
squint, almost every one of them ! 

All this is quite true. But see where we have 
come to? — to the very last page of the very last 
sheet ; and the writer is called upon to stop just 


at the very moment he was going to cut his own 
head off. 

So have I seen Mr. Clown (in that Christmas 
drama which has been foremost in my thought during 
all the above meditations) set up the gallows, adjust 
the rope, try the noose curiously, and — tumble head 
over heels.^ 

Thackeray's withdrawal from the Examiner and 
Erasers Magazine enabled him to devote himself to 
work that was more remunerative. He followed his 
first Christmas Book, *'Mrs. Perkins's Ball," with 
others, and in December of each year from 1847 to 
1850 he issued, one by one, ''Our Street", ''Dr. 
Birch and his Young Friends", "The Kickleburys on 
the Rhine," and "Rebecca and Rowena," the last 
founded upon the earlier " Proposals for a Continuation 
of Ivanhoe."2 "The Kickleburys on the Rhine" was 
severely handled by the Times and, the review happen- 
ing to appear just before the second edition went to 
press, Thackeray, always sensitive to criticism, took 
the opportunity to write a preface, "Being an Essay 
on Thunder and Small Beer." 

I would rather have a good word than a bad one 
from any person : but if a critic abuses me from a 
high place, and it is worth my while, I will appeal 
[he wrote]. If I can show that the judge who is 
delivering sentence against me, and laying down 
the law and making a pretence of learning, has no 
learning and no law, and is neither more nor less 
than a pompous noodle, who ought not to be heard 
in any respectable court, I will do so ; and then, 

^ A Grumble at the Christmas Books. Thackeray in January 1853 
contributed one more paper to Eraser s Magazine : " Mr. Thackeray in 
the United States. John Small to the Editor of Eraser's Magazine." 

^ Eraser's Magazine^ August and September, 1846. 


dear friends, perhaps you will have something to 
laugh at in this book. 

He reprinted the Times review in this preface and 
made very merry over it. 

Why, a man who can say of a Christmas book [he 
retorted] that "it is an opuscule denominated so- 
and-so, and ostensibly intended to swell the tide of 
expansive emotion incident upon the exodus of the 
old year," must evidently have had immense sums 
and care expended on his early education, and de- 
serves a splendid return. You can't go into the 
market, and get scholarship like that, without paying 
for it : even the flogging that such a writer must 
have had in early youth (if he was at a public school 
where the rods were paid for) must have cost his 
parents a good sum. Where would you find any 
but an accomplished classical scholar to compare the 
books of the present (or indeed any other) writer to 
''sardonic divings after the pearl of truth, whose 
lustre is eclipsed in the display of the diseased 
oyster " ; mere Billingsgate doesn't turn out oysters 
like these ; they are of the Lucrine lake : — this 
satirist has pickled his rods in Latin brine. Fancy, 
not merely a diver, but a sardonic diver : and the 
expression of his confounded countenance on dis- 
covering not only a pearl, but an eclipsed pearl, 
which was in a diseased oyster I I say it is only 
by an uncommon and happy combination of taste, 
genius, and industry, that a man can arrive at utter- 
ing such sentiments in such fine language, — that 
such a man ought to be well paid, as I have no 
doubt he is, and that he is worthily employed to 
write literary articles, in large type, in the leading 
journal of Europe. Don't we want men of eminence 
and polite learning to sit on the literary bench, and 
to direct the public opinion ? 

The culprit was a friend of Thackeray, Charles Lamb 
Kenney, and very cynically he explained the reason 


for the tone in which he had spoken of *'The Kickle- 
burys on the Rhine." *' My only motive for pitching 
into the book was to please my employers," he told 
Jeaffreson. "Thackeray was not liked by them, and 
I wished them to like me. My friendly regard for the 
writer of the poor book was overborne by a strong 
sense of my duty to the public, and a still stronger care 
for my own interest."^ If the editor of the Times did 
not like Thackeray, the novelist was unaware of it, for 
in 185 1 when Mark Lemon would not print the " May- 
Day Ode " in Punch because the manuscript arrived 
late, Thackeray took it to Printing House Square, 
which took it gladly and paid generously for it. 
The Times, however, attacked "Esmond," and this 
Thackeray could not forgive. 

As for the little hint about Printing House Square 
[Thackeray wrote in 1858 to Captain Atkinson, the 
author of " Curry and Rice," in which volume first 
appeared the verses, "Little Billee "] I know the 
editor and most of the writers, and, knowing, never 
think of asking a favour for myself or any mortal 
man. They are awful and inscrutable, and a request 
for a notice might bring down a slasher upon you, 
just as I once had in the Times for one of my own 
books (" Esmond "), of which the sale was absolutely 
stopped by a Times article.- 

Thackeray, indeed, was often strangely sensitive to 
criticism, though he would make jokes at his own 
expense, or, in an aside, would chuckle at his critics. 
In " Mr. Brown's Letters" we learn that 

Horner is asleep in the library at the Polyanthus : 

1 J. C. Jeaffreson : A Book of Recollections, Vol. I, p. 296. 
- Leisure Hour, September 1883. 


What is he reading? Hah! "Pendennis," No. 
VIII. — hum, let us pass on, 

and on the previous page is the drawing illustrative 
of the episode. 

The heroine is not faultless (ah ! that will be a 
great relief to some folks, for many writers' good 
women are, you know, so very insipid), 

he said in ''Lovel the Widower," probably thinking 
of the strictures passed upon Amelia in "Vanity 
Fair " ; and later in the same novel he wrote : 

Some authors, who shall be nameless, are, I know, 
accused of depicting the most feeble, brainless, 
namby-pamby heroines, for ever whimpering tears, 
and prattling commonplaces. 

When Thackeray said, *'They have only bought so 
many of my new book"; or, "Have you seen the 
abuse of my new number?" or, " What am I to turn 
my hand to? They are getting tired of my novels," 
Trollope admitted that he could not understand 
him. Trollope remarked that he knew authors who 
boasted of their thousands of copies sold, but he had 
never heard any other writer declare that no one would 
read his masterpiece, and that the world was becoming 
tired of him; and he was puzzled accordingly. Yet the 
cause of such remarks lay but little below the surface. 
Thackeray spoke so, not because he was indifferent to 
success or the opinion of his contemporaries, but be- 
cause the pain inflicted by these wounds would have 
been greater if he had thought anyone else would 
sympathise with him. He preferred to say, "This 
book is a failure," rather than let anyone else tell him 


he had not succeeded. He was anxious to avoid 
criticism by himself turning critic. Sometimes he was 
almost absurdly sensitive, and Frederick Locker- 
Lampson has related a strange instance of this 
exaggerated susceptibility to criticism. *'I happened 
to meet him as I was leaving the Travellers' Club. 
Even now I think I could point out the particular flag- 
stone on which the dear fellow was standing, as he 
gazed down on me through his spectacles with that 
dreary expression of his which his friends knew so 
well. He said, ' What do you think of the last 
number?' (No. 2 or 3 of 'The Newcomes.') He him- 
self was evidently not satisfied with it. ' I like it 
immensely,' was my cordial rejoinder. A word or 
two more passed respecting the illustrations, which 
had been sharply criticised, and just as we parted, 
I was tactless enough to add, ' But, my dear fellow, 
perhaps there may be some kind people who will say 
that you did the cuts and Doyle the letter-press.' On 
this Thackeray's jaw dropped, and he exclaimed 
bitterly, *I — Oh! really, that's your opinion, is it?' 
I saw at once what a mistake I had made, but I could 
only reply, ' I spoke in fun, pure fun ; you know 
perfectly well how much I admire your writings, and 
also Doyle's cuts.' But Thackeray would have none 
of it, and turned wrathfully away in the direction of 
Pimlico. However, his wrath, I presume, died away 
in the large and charitable air of the Green Park, for 
when I met him the day after he was as amiable as 
ever. The fact is I had so exalted an opinion of 
Thackeray and of his writing that it seemed impossible 
such a demi-god should care for aught anybody said ; 

i854] "PRIZE NOVELISTS" 289 

whereas, like Tennyson, he felt anything that every- 
body said."^ 

The great mass of Thackeray's miscellaneous 
writings after the publication of "Vanity Fair" 
appeared in Punch. A glance at the Bibliography at 
the end of this work will show how numerous were his 
contributions both with pen and pencil during the 
years that ''Vanity Fair" and "Pendennis" were 
being published. In 1847, after the "Snob Papers" 
were brought to a conclusion in February, began the 
series of parodies of contemporary novelists, then 
called "Punch's Prize Novelists," and rechristened 
"Novels by Eminent Hands." Among his subjects 
were to be Dickens and himself, but Mark Lemon 
would not have the parody on Dickens, and so neither 
was written : Lytton, Mrs. Gore, G. P. R. James, Feni- 
more Cooper, were burlesqued ; and Lever, who after 
reading "Phil Fogarty" declared he might as well 
shut up shop and did actually alter the character of 
his novels; and Disraeli, who never forgave " Cod- 
lingsby," and took a belated revenge by maliciously 
caricaturing Thackeray as St. Barbe in "Endymion." 
The " Prize Novelists" were followed in 1849 by " Mr. 
Brown's Letters to a Young Man about Town," so full 
of worldly wisdom ; and these, in their turn, by the 
" Proser Papers," which in some ways were a con- 
tinuation of "Mr. Brown's Letters." After 1850 
Thackeray wrote less for Punch, and his last con- 
tribution, "A Second Letter to an Eminent Person," 
appeared in the issue for September 23, 1854, about 
which time he severed his connection with the paper. 

^ My Confidences. 
I.— U 


Four years before, Richard Doyle had retired from 
the Round Table, and to this and his own resignation 
Thackeray made reference in his article on that other 
invaluable contributor to Punch. 

Through the violent opinions which Mr. Punch 
expressed regarding the Roman Catholic hierarchy, 
he lost the invaluable services, the graceful pencil, 
the harmless wit, the charming fancy, of Mr. Doyle. 
Another member of Mr. Punch's cabinet, the 
biographer of Jeames, the author of the Snob 
Papers, resigned his functions on account of Mr. 
Punch's assaults upon the present Emperor of the 
French, whose anger Jeames thought it was un- 
patriotic to arouse.^ 

It was unfortunate that just after leaving Punch he 
should have inadvertently written a line that gave 
offence to his colleagues on the staff of that paper. It 
occurred in the article on Leech just mentioned. 

There is no blinking the fact that in Mr. Punch's 
cabinet John Leech is the right hand man. Fancy a 
number of Punch without Leech's pictures ! What 
would you give for it? The learned gentlemen who 
write the work must feel that, without him, it were as 
well left alone. 

Naturally the Punch authors were indignant, and 
Thackeray could only explain it, when writing to 
Whitwell Elwin (the editor of the Quarterly Review), by 
saying that he ''slipped it over totally in the proof. 
. . . But we get to write as fast as we talk."^ To 
" Professor " Percival Leigh, the author of the " Comic 

^ A review of " Picture of Life and Character," by John Leech 
{Quarlcrly Review, December 1854). 

2 Whitwell Elwin : Soyne Eighteenth Century Men of Letters (Memoir 
of Elwin. By his Son), Vol. I, p. 155. 

i8S4] A SLIP OF THE PEN 291 

Latin Grammar," and one of the oldest contributors to 
Punchy he unreservedly expressed his regret. 

Of all the slips of my fatal pen, there's none I regret 
more than the unlucky half-line which has given pain 
to such a kind and valued old friend as you have 
been, and I trust will be still to me. I ought never 
to have said ''^ Punch might as well be left unwritten 
but for Leech." It was more than my meaning, 
which is certainly that the drawing is a hundred times 
more popular than the writing ; but I had no busi- 
ness to write any such thing, and forgot it so much 
that I was quite surprised when I first heard I had 
been accused of sneering at Punch. I knew when I 
came back from Paris, and read the line in the 
Quarterly Review^ which I had forgotten as utterly 
as many another speech which I have made and didn't 
ought. Jerrold has had his fire into me, and, do you 
know, I feel rather comforted. 

Thackeray, having made the amende honorable y asked 
the Punch staff to dinner, and the Punch staff came 
and made merry ; but the blunder, though forgiven, 
was not forgotten, and it became rumoured that it 
was owing to this that Thackeray had retired from the 
paper. Thackeray, hearing this, wrote on March 24, 
1855, to "Pater" Evans, and placed the true version 
on record. 

I find a note of yours dated Feb. 5, in which 
F. M. E. states that my account shall be prepared 
directly. F. M. E. has a great deal to do and pay 
and think of, but W. M. T. has also his engage- 

I hope your "Poetry of Punch" will not be pub- 
lished before my collected Ballads — You remember 
(you wrote me a letter expressly on the subject) that 
the Copyright of all articles in " Punch" were mine, 
by stipulation — and my book would be very much 


hurt by the appearance of another containing f of its 

I met Murray the publisher the other day, and 
cannot help fancying from his manner to me that 
there is some screw loose with him too about that 
unlucky Leech article. Lemon, answering one of my 
letters, said that he personally complained, that my 
account of leaving Punch was not correct. 

There was such a row at the time, and I was so 
annoyed at the wrong that I had done, that I thought 
I had best leave Lemon's remonstrance for a while 
and right it on some future occasion. 

I recall now to you and beg you to show to him 
and to any other persons who may have received a 
different version of the story — what the facts were. I 
had had some serious public differences with the Con- 
duct of Punch — about the abuse of Prince Albert 
and the Crystal Palace on which I very nearly 
resigned, about abuse of Lord Palmerston, about 
abuse finally of L. Napoleon — in all which Punch 
followed the Times, which I think and thought was 
writing unjustly at that time, and dangerously for 
the welfare and peace of the Country. 

Coming from Edinburgh I bought a Punch contain- 
ing the picture of a Beggar on Horseback, in which 
the Emperor was represented galloping to Hell with a 
sword reeking with blood. As soon as ever I could 
after my return (a day or 2 days after), I went to 
Bouverie St., saw you and gave in my resignation. 

I mention this because I know the cause of my 
resignation has been questioned at Punch — because 
this was the cause of it. I talked it over with you, 
and Leech saw me coming out of your room, and I 
told him of my retirement. 

No engagement afterwards took place between us; 
nor have I ever since been a member of Punch's 
Cabinet, so to speak. Wishing you all heartily well, 
I wrote a few occasional papers last year — and not 
liking the rate of remuneration, which was less than 
that to which I had been accustomed in my time — I 
wrote no more. 


And you can say for me as a reason why I should 
feel hurt at your changing the old rates of payment 
made to me — that I am not a man who quarrels about 
a guinea or two except as a point of honour ; and 
that when I could have had a much larger sum than 
that which you gave me for my last novel — I preferred 
to remain with old friends who had acted honourably 
and kindly by me. 

I reproach myself with having written \ a line 
regarding my old Punch Companions — which was 
perfectly true, which I have often said — but which 
I ought not to have written. No other wrong that I 
know of have I done. And I think it is now about 
time that my old friends and publishers should set 
me right. 

To the last Thackeray would, from time to time, 
attend the weekly dinners, where a place was always 
kept for him ; and to the last he cherished kindly 
thoughts for the paper and all who were connected 
with it. "Ah, Swain," he said one day, "if it had 
not been for Punch, I wonder where I should be"; and 
when an old friend on the staff died, he was the first to 
come forward and suggest that he and his colleagues 
should offer assistance to the widow and family. 

Can't we, his old comrades, do something to show 
his poor widow and family our sense of his worth? 
He has a son at Christ Church where, with the 
family's altered means, it may not be convenient to 
support the young man. Is the career likely to be 
serviceable to him, and would he desire to continue 
it? I shall be heartily glad to give iJ^ioo towards a 
fund for his maintenance at Oxford, should he think 
fit to remain there. Others of our friends, no doubt, 
would join in it. It is through my connection with 
Punch that I owe the good chances that have lately 
befallen me, and have had so many kind offers of 


help in my own days of trouble, that I would thank- 
fully aid a friend whom Death has called away.^ 

On the sad Christmas Eve when Thackeray died, the 
Punch staff met "round the old tree," mournful and 
sad. ''I'll tell you what we'll do," said Horace May- 
hew. "We'll sing the dear old boy's 'Mahogany 
Tree'; he'd like it." Accordingly they stood up, and 
with such memory of the words as each possessed, and 
a catching of the breath here and there by about all of 
them, the song was sung. "While generous tributes 
are everywhere being paid to the genius of him who 
has been suddenly called away in the fullness of his 
power and the maturity of his fame, some who have 
for many years enjoyed the advantage of his assistance 
and the delight of his society, would simply record 
that they have lost a dear friend," so runs the obituary 
notice in Punch. "At an early period in the history of 
the periodical he became a contributor to its pages, and 
he long continued to enrich them ; and though of late 
he had ceased to give other aid than suggestions and 
advice, he was a constant member of our council, and 
sat with us on the eighth day from that which has 
saddened England's Christmas. Let the brilliancy of 
his trained intellect, the terrible strength of his satire, 
the subtlety of his wit, the richness of his humour, and 
the catholic range of his calm wisdom, be themes for 
others ; the mourning friends who inscribe these lines 
to his memory think of the affectionate nature, the cheer- 
ful companionship, the large heart and the open hand, 
the simple courteousness, the endearing frankness of a 

^ H. Vizetelly : Glances Back Through Seventy Years, Vol. II, 
p. 108. 


brave, true, honest gentleman, whom no pen but his 
own could depict as those who knew him most desire. "^ 
Not less magnificent was the compliment Thackeray- 
had paid to Punch : 

When the future enquirer shall take up your 
volumes, or a bundle of French plays, and contrast 
the performance of your booth with that of the 
Parisian theatre, he won't fail to remark how different 
they are, and what different objects we admire or 
satirise. As for your morality, sir, it does not be- 
come me to compliment you to your venerable face ; 
but permit me to say there never was before pub- 
lished so many volumes that contained so much 
cause for laughing, and so little for blushing, so 
many jokes, and so little harm. Why, sir, say 
even your modesty, which astonishes me more and 
more every time I regard you, is calculated, and 
not a virtue naturally inherent in you, that very 
fact would argue for the high sense of the public 
morality among us. We will laugh in the company 
of our wives and children ; we will tolerate no in- 
decorum ; we like that our matrons and girls should 
be pure. 

His colleagues on Punch might well deplore 
Thackeray's death, for he had been a friend of almost 
all of them, from "a Beckett the Beak," who had gone 
before, to Sir Francis Burnand, happily still with us, at 
whose first dinner at the Round Table **the bio- 
grapher of Jeames" was present. ''Gentlemen," said 
the veteran, ''allow the old boy to present to you the 
new boy !" Tom Taylor and John Leech were friends 
of his before he joined the staff, but his acquaint- 
ance with the Mayhew brothers, Mark Lemon, Shirley 
Brooks, Richard Doyle, Charles Keene, Percival Leigh, 

^ Punch. 


and Sir John Tenniel, arose out of his connection with 

Thackeray regarded as his most important rival on 
the staff of Punch Douglas Jerrold — witty, brilliant 
Jerrold, who is little more than a name to-day. On 
receiving his early copy of Punchy he would hastily 
tear off the wrapper to see ''what young Douglas has 
to say this week," and would read the chapter of the 
"Caudle Lectures" or ''Miss Robinson Crusoe" or 
whatever the contribution might be, before turning to 
the remaining contents. They said many sharp and 
stinging things about one another and to one another. 
When Thackeray saw at the Earl of Carlisle's a 
presentation copy of one of Jerrold's books, inscribed, 
"To the Right Hon. the Earl of Carlisle, k.g., k.c.b., 
etc., etc., etc.," he remarked, "Ah, this is the style 
in which your rigid, uncompromising radical always 
toadies to the great!" When it was rumoured that 
Thackeray was leaning towards the Church of Rome, 
and someone remarked, "Why, they are Romanizing 
old Thackeray," "I hope," said Jerrold, "I hope 
they'll begin at his nose." "Good Lord," said the 
caustic wit, hearing that the other had stood sponsor to 
a child, "I hope you didn't present the infant with 
your own mug." 

"I have known Thackeray for eighteen years, and 
I don't know him yet," Jerrold complained one day ; 
and, on the other hand, when Thackeray was giving 
a breakfast party in 1848 to M. de Noe ("Cham"), 
though asking several Punch men, he did not invite 
Jerrold, because if the latter had come, he would have 
taken "especial care that his own effulgence should ob- 


scure all lesser lights, Cham's included." ^ Still, in spite 
of these things, there was some sort of understanding 
between them. In one of his drawings Thackeray has 
represented Jerrold and himself in a railway carriage 
listening, with most amusing expressions on their 
faces, to the other two occupants discussing, with 
quite sublime ignorance, the members of the Punch 
staff' — this does not show ill-feeling. And it was 
clearly an act of friendship when Thackeray ran up to 
town one day from Leamington, where he was lectur- 
ing, announcing on his return to the astonished 
George Hodder, ''We've got the little man in" — and 
then, noticing his bewilderment, explaining: "Why, 
Jerrold ; we've elected him a member of the Reform 
Club." Jerrold's wit had made him many enemies 
and Thackeray had gone up to use his influence to 
secure his election. Again, Thackeray rejoiced when 
he heard of the increased popularity which Lloyd's 
Newspaper attained under Jerrold's editorship, and 
then characteristically declared, "I am quite pleased 
with myself at finding myself pleased at men getting 
on in the world." At Jerrold's death, too, he co- 
operated with Dickens to raise a fund for the widow 
and children, contributing for his share the lecture on 
"Weekday Preachers," in which he made special and 
appreciative reference to Jerrold and his writings. This 
lecture was delivered on July 22, 1857, the day after 
the declaration of the poll of the Oxford election in 
which Thackeray was defeated, and the audience, on 
the alert for some allusion to that event, was not dis- 

^ Henry Vizetelly : Glances Back Through Seventy Years, Vol. I, 
p. 286. - Authors' Miseries. 


appointed, for the opening words of the discourse, 
delivered with comical solemnity, were, "Walking 
yesterday in the High Street of a certain ancient 
city ..." '"'So began the lecturer," says the Times, 
in its account of the lecture, *'and was interrupted by 
a storm of laughter that deferred for some moments 
the completion of the sentence." 

Before leaving the subject of Thackeray's connection 
with Punch, something must be said of his ballads, the 
majority of which appeared in the pages of that paper. 
It has been remarked that he was always rhyming in 
private life, and he was devoted to the exercise. The 
best papers of the little brochure, " The Second Funeral 
of Napoleon," are undoubtedly those given over to 
'* The Chronicle of the Drum " ; but as his literary 
career progressed poetry took its place in his life as a 
relaxation, for the writing of verses was with him a 
labour of love. Yet though as a rule he wrote with 
ease, he was a severe critic of his work, and after 
publication would sometimes entirely revise the poem. 
There are two distinct versions of "The King of 
Brentford " ; and no less than three times he materially 
altered "Lucy's Birthday.** 

Thackeray wrote in all about one hundred poems. 
A fifth of this number were based upon political sub- 
jects, and of these there is little to say, save that most 
of them were composed in haste, often with the printer's 
devil at the door. Their merit consists in a certain 
humour, but their interest was for the day : they 
amused the generation for which they were written, 
and so achieved their object. Clever they are un- 


doubtedly, but few of them bear the hall-mark of the 
author's individuality ; and, in all probability, the sub- 
jects were selected, or at least suggested, by the editor 
of Punch. 

The same defects, though in a lesser degree, are 
noticeable in ''The Bow Street Ballads." They also 
convey in the reading the impression that they were 
written to order ; and not all the fun of Policeman X 54's 
queer spelling and phrasing makes them quite ac- 
ceptable, although here and there the personality of 
Thackeray emerges from the motley. Notably is this 
the case in "Jacob Omnium's Hoss," where he gives 
rein to his indignation against " Pallis Court," with its 
monstrous scale of costs : — 

Come down from that tribewen 

Thou Shameless and Unjust ; 
Thou Swindle, picking pockets in 

The name of Truth august ; 
Come down, thou hoary Blasphemy, 

For die thou shalt and must. 

And go it, Jacob Homnium, 

And ply your iron pen. 
And rise up Sir John Jervis, 

And shut me up that den ; 
That sty for fattening lawyers in 

On the bones of honest men. 

The "Lyra Hibernica" are better. Carlyle said 
these Irish ballads were the best things Thackeray ever 
wrote, and he would quote them and laugh heartily at 
them. The fun is more spontaneous, the humour of a 
higher class ; the quaint rhymes amuse, and the swing 
of the verses delight. It is not worth while, however, 



to argue the question of the accuracy of Thackeray's 
attempt to present phonetically the Irishman's pronun- 
ciation of the English language. The catalogue of the 
exhibits of the Great Exhibition is delightful, and the 
apparent ease of the versification is not excelled even 
in the wonderful " White Squall." 

There's holy saints 

And window paints 
By Maydiayval Pugin ; 

Alhamborough Jones 

Did paint the tones 
Of yellow and gambouge in. 

There's Statue bright 
Of marble white, 

Of silver and of copper ; 
And some in zinc, 
And some, I think, 

That isn't over proper. 

For them genteels 

Who ride on wheels, 
There's plenty to indulge 'em ; 

There's Droskys snug 

From Paytersbug 
And vayhicles from Bulgium. 

There's Cabs on Stands 

And Shandthry-danns ; 
There's Waggons from New York here ; 

There's Lapland sleighs 

Have crossed the seas. 
And Jaunting Cyars from Cork here. 

i8s4] "A SIXPENNY TALENT" 301 

Thackeray never attempted the *' big bow-wow " kind 
of poetry. From the first he recognised his limitations: 
and to the end was content to be bound by them. He 
might have said with Locker-Lampson, "My aim is 
humble. I used the ordinary metres and rhymes, the 
simplest language and ideas, I hope flavoured with 
individuality. I strove not to be obscure, not to be flat, 
above all, not to be tedious." As, indeed, Thackeray 
said to the author of the delightful "London Lyrics" : 
" I have a sixpenny talent (or gift) and so have you ; 
ours is small beer, but, you see, it is the right tap. "^ 
It is worthy of remark how much in common the verses 
of these men had. The poems of Locker-Lampson — 
that author thought Thackeray almost as humorous as 
Swift, and sometimes almost as tender as Cowper — 
often suggest those of the more famous writer. The 
dainty "St. James's Street" recalls "The Ballad of 
Bouillabaisse," as "Gertrude's Necklace" conjures up 
memory of "Lucy's Birthday." Both were artists to 
the finger-tips, both had a keen appreciation of humour; 
but Thackeray, though he could be dainty, if usually 
less elegant, was rather more virile. 

Thackeray was strongly imbued with the sense 
of parody. He wrote " The Willow Tree," and, seeing 
the opportunity, burlesqued it forthwith. "Larry 
O'Toole" from "Phil Fogarty " could easily be mis- 
taken for one of the spirited songs with which Lever 
adorned his brilliant but more or less unreal stories of 
Ireland. Again, the songs of the forties and fifties 
were no more sensible than the majority of similar 
compositions to-day, and they offered themselves as a 

' My Confidences^ p. 300. 


good butt for ridicule. Thackeray started a series of 
parodies with the Mayfair and Oriental Love Songs ; 
but when the turn came of the Domestic Song, the 
man's sentiment overcame his intention. Though pre- 
faced by a burlesque prose introduction — omitted in 
most reprints — there is little or nothing of parody in 
the verse. Humour there is in plenty, but it is that 
tender humour that is not far away from tears ; there is 
loving kindness in every line ; and the picture of the 
lonely bachelor thinking of the fair young girl whose 
presence had for a moment relieved the gloom of the 
dull chambers does not create more mirth than is to be 
found in a sad smile. 

It was but a moment she sat in this place, 

She'd a scarf on her neck, and a smile on her face ! 

A smile on her face, and a rose in her hair, 

And she sat there, and bloomed in my cane-bottomed chair. 

And so I have valued my chair ever since. 

Like the shrine of a saint, or the throne of a prince ; 

Sweet Fanny, my patroness, sweet, I declare 

The queen of my heart and my cane-bottomed chair. 

When the candles burn low, and the company's gone, 
In the silence of night as I sit here alone — 
I sit here alone, but we yet are a pair — 
My Fanny I see in my cane-bottomed chair. 

She comes from the past and revisits my room ; 
She looks as she then did, all beauty and bloom. 
So smiling and tender, so fresh and so fair. 
And yonder she sits in my cane-bottomed chair. 

In the same vein of tenderness is the even better- 
known " Ballad of Bouillabaisse," written in Paris 


after a visit to the restaurant where the author and his 
wife and friends had been frequent visitors ; and the 
exquisite *' Mahogany Tree," one of the author's favour- 
ites, which many a time he sang. 

The most ambitious, as well as the longest, of Thack- 
eray's poems was *' The Great Cossack Epic of Deme- 
trius Rigmarolovicz," founded, so the prefatory note 
informs us, on the legend of St. Sophia, whose statue 
is said to have walked of its own accord up the river 
Dnieper to take its station in the Church of Kiew. It 
is good fooling, and amusing enough, but it does not 
bear in any marked degree the imprint of Thackeray's 
individuality. It was followed by "The Chronicle of 
the Drum," which is on quite a different plane, and is 
as good as anything Thackeray ever wrote in verse. It 
is the narrative of a French drummer, whose ancestors 
for the last four generations had rattled the sticks from 
the days of Henri of Navarre. In Germany, Flanders, 

and Holland 

. . . my grandsire was ever victorious, 
My grandsire and Marshal Turenne ; 

his father was at Fontenoy and lost his life at Quebec ; 
while the story-teller was present at Yorktown, helped 
to drum down the Bastille, and fought for the Republic 
in the days of the Terror. 

We had taken the head of King Capet, 

We called for the blood of his wife ; 
Undaunted she came to the scaffold, 

And bared her fair neck to the knife. 
As she felt the foul fingers that touched her, 

She shrank but she deigned not to speak, 
She looked with a royal disdain, 

And died with a blush in her cheek ! 


He was in the Napoleonic army and a stout partisan of 
the Emperor. He was at Marengo, Jena, and Auster- 
litz ; the Hundred Days found him at his post ; and 
he was present at Waterloo. 

A curse on those British assassins, 

Who ordered the slaughter of Ney ; 
A curse on Sir Hudson who tortured 

The life of our hero away. 
A curse on all Russians — I hate them — 

On all Prussians and Austrian fry ; 
And, O ! but I pray we may meet them. 

And fight them again ere I die. 

" The Chronicle of the Drum " presents a fine picture 
of the wild enthusiasm of the French veterans for their 
Corsican leader and of the deep-seated hatred of 

the red-coated English, 

Whose bayonets helped our undoing. 

The drummer cares nothing for the cause, but every- 
thing for the battle ; fighting was in his blood, for he 
loved his country and believed in his General as in his 
God ; yet even when fierce excitement had the better of 
him, he could spare a thought for the poor woman 
waiting anxiously for news of her husband, who had 
marched with the army against Wolfe. 

I think I can see my poor mammy 

With me in her hand as she waits. 
And our regiment, slowly retreating, 

Pours back through the citadel gates. 
Dear mammy ! she looks in their faces, 

And asks if her husband has come? 
— He is lying all cold on the glacis, 

And will never more beat on the drum. 

1854] BALLADS 305 

This splendid martial poem contains much satirical 
humour and just the amount of underlying pathos that 
adds to the beauty ; while it has many of the qualities 
that later were to combine in the making of the wonder- 
ful, ironical ** Barry Lyndon." 

*' It is easy enough to knock off that nonsense about 
Policeman X," Thackeray said ; " but to write a good 
occasional verse is a rare intellectual feat." Yet this, 
too, he accomplished. He possessed the wit and the 
fancy, the humour and tenderness, the refinement, 
without all of which qualities " the real thing" cannot 
be produced. Nor was the lyrical strain absent from 
his composition. His verse is easy and possesses the 
essential merit of apparent spontaneity. He was almost 
invariably humorous ; yet there was always something 
more than mere fun. Frequently he was satirical, 
occasionally he was indignant ; sometimes, as in 
**The End of the Play" and "Vanitas Vanitatum," 
he was didactic ; usually he was tender and pathetic. 
He could be gay ; he could sprinkle his verses with 
playful or ironic humour ; and upon all his best work 
his personality is impressed. Of the touch of originality 
he was proud: "Tom Taylor wrote those verses in 
Punch,'''' he replied to a question of Dr. John Brown. 
** When I strike the lyre I think it's to a more original 
tune than that; it's not the best music, but it's my own." 
Most of his ballads are good ; all are readable, and 
many are possessed of distinction. As has been 
said, his rhymes are often appalling, and his metre is not 
always perfect ; but his language was as simple and 
direct as in his prose writings. If he was not under- 
rating his talent when he spoke of it as small beer, he 
I— J^ 


certainly was not guilty of an error of judgment 
when he declared it was the right tap. No "Lyra 
Elegantiarum " is complete without the insertion of 
"The Mahogany Tree", "The Ballad of Bouilla- 
baisse," and " Peg of Limavaddy " ; and no anthology 
of light verse may omit " The Chronicle of the Drum." 


"PENDENNIS" (1849-1850) 

Thackeray living- at No. 88, St. James's Street — takes a house, No. 13 
(now 16), Young Street, Kensington — and has his daughters brought 
to him there — the greater part of "Vanity Fair" written in that 
house — his acquaintance with Charlotte Bronte — her appreciation of 
him — a dismal dinner party — " The Last Sketch" — Thackeray dissatis- 
fied with his financial prospects — endeavours to obtain the secretary- 
ship of the Post Office — and, failing, tries to get a magistracy — 
Horace Smith — the Misses Smith and " Pendennis " — the publication 
of "Pendennis" begun November 1848 — interrupted by a serious 
illness — some opinions of the earlier parts of the novel — Thackeray's 
recovery — " Pendennis" autobiographical in parts — some prototypes 
of the characters in "Vanity Fair" — of Sir Pitt Crawley, Lord 
Steyne, and Becky Sharp — some prototypes of the characters in 
"Pendennis" — of Warrington, Foker, and Shandon — "The Dignity 
of Literature " — Thackeray on the responsibility of an author — the 
literary man's point of honour. 

THACKERAY had given up his room in 
Jermyn Street when he went to Cairo, and 
on his return had rented chambers at No. 88, 
St. James's Street, the house at the south- 
west corner of that street, with a frontage in Cleveland 
Row, and facing that portion of the palace which is 
between the Colour Court and the Ambassador's 
Court. It was next door to the site upon which had 
stood the old coffee-house, where the fashionable wits 
of the eighteenth century foregathered, and Swift, 
not too far away from Esther Vanhomrigh in Suffolk 



Street, wrote so frequently to sweet Stella. " He 
never sends away a letter to her but he begins a new 
one the same day. He can't bear to let go her little 
hand as it were."^ Here Thackeray remained for two 
years, until the summer of 1846, when he made for 
himself and his daughters a home at No. 13 (now 16), 
Young Street, Kensington. He was delighted with 
the house, and thought its two semi-tower-like embra- 
sures gave it the air of a feudal castle. "I'll have 
a flagstaff put over the coping of the wall," he said, 
laughing, ''and I'll hoist a standard when I'm at 
home." His mother brought the children from Paris 
in the late autumn of 1846; and when things were 
settled she returned to her husband, and her place was 
taken by her mother, who remained until her death 
two years later. Thenceforth Thackeray had his 
"little girls" constantly with him; and whenever he 
could snatch an hour or an afternoon, they went for 
those little outings which he enjoyed as much as they. 
He was never again separated from them for any 
length of time except when he went to America ; and 
from this time forth, until he was taken from them, so 
far as possible they shared the pleasures of his life. 

It was when passing by the Young Street house in 
later days with Fields, the American publisher, that 
Thackeray exclaimed, with mock gravity: "Down on 
your knees, you rogue, for here ' Vanity Fair ' was 
penned ; and I will go down with you, for I have a 
high opinion of that little production myself." The 
house, too, has an association with another great 
novelist, Charlotte Bronte. Most interesting is the 

' English Humourists — Swift. 


From an unpublished zvater-coloiir draiving hy II '. Dnnuuiciid, /Sjo 

Reproduced l<y ptriiiission of Major W'illiavi //. Lambert 


story of the acquaintance between these notabiHties. 
It has already been mentioned that **Currer Bell" 
dedicated the second edition of "Jane Eyre" to 
Thackeray, and Thackeray later acknowledged the 
compliment, before even he knew her name or sex, by 
sending her a copy of ''Vanity Fair" inscribed with 
his "grateful regards." Charlotte Bronte had been 
much disturbed by the widespread rumour that she 
had drawn Thackeray and his wife as Mr. and Mrs. 
Rochester, though she was indifferent to those other 
lying reports that said she had been a governess in his 
family and subsequently his mistress ; and when she 
came to London in December 1849, she eagerly 
accepted the offer of George Smith to introduce 
Thackeray to her. 

When they did meet, she was much astonished. As 
the dedication to the second edition of "Jane Eyre" 
shows, she had expected to find a fervent prophet, and 
Thackeray was simply a quiet, well-bred gentleman, 
with nothing in appearance to distinguish him from 
hosts of other men. A delightful story has been 
related of their meeting. It is worthy of being re- 
peated, for, though probably apocryphal, it is amus- 
ingly true of the lady's attitude to her hero. " Behold, 
a lion Cometh up out of the North ! " she quoted under 
her breath, as Thackeray entered the drawing-room. 
Thackeray, being informed of this, remarked: "Oh, 
Lord ! and I'm nothing but a poor devil of an English- 
man, ravenous for my dinner." At dinner. Miss 
Bronte was placed opposite him. "And," said 
Thackeray, " I had the miserable humiliation of seeing 
her ideal of me disappearing, as everything went into 

my mouth, and nothing came out of it, until, at last, 
as I took my fifth potato, she leaned across, with 
clasped hands and tearful eyes, and breathed implor- 
ingly, ' Oh, Mr. Thackeray ! Don't ! ' " 

Thackeray was an enigma to Charlotte Bronte ; she 
could not understand him ; she was never certain 
whether he was speaking in jest or in earnest ; but she 
was determined to take him seriously. "All you say 
of Mr. Thackeray is most graphic and characteristic," 
she wrote to Ellen Nussey, on December 19. "He 
stirs in me both sorrow and anger. Why should he 
lead so harassing a life? Why should his mocking 
tongue so perversely deny the better feelings of his 
better moods? . . . Mr. Thackeray is a man of very 
quiet, simple demeanour ; he is, however, looked up 
to with some awe and even distrust. . . . Thackeray is 
a Titan of mind. His presence and powers impress 
one deeply in an intellectual sense ; I do not know him 
or see him as a man. All the others are subordinate. 
... I felt sufficiently at my ease with all but 
Thackeray ; with him, I was fearfully stupid."^ 

Charlotte Bronte came again to London in the 
following June, and Thackeray called on her at George 
Smith's house, and the host, who was alone with them, 
afterwards described the interview as "a queer scene." 
" I suppose it was," the lady wrote to Ellen Nussey. 
"The giant sat before me: I was moved to speak 
of some of his shortcomings (literary, of course) ; one 
by one the faults came into my head, and one by one 
I brought them out, and sought some explanation or 
defence. He did defend himself, like a great Turk 

^ Clement Shorter : The Brotites. 

l,M)\\ 10), \'nL\i. .-^Il.l.l.l, lvl,.\.-.i; 
il'/it-rc Tkackfray lived, /S^O-lSjj 


and heathen ; that is to say, the excuses were often 
worse than the crime itself. The matter ended in 
decent amity ; if all be well I am to dine at his house 
this evening (June 12)."^ The dinner, it must be con- 
fessed, was not a success. The party included Mrs. 
Crowe, the Brookfields, the Carlyles, Mrs. Procter and 
her daughter, and Mrs. Elliot and Miss Perry, and 
it should have been a bright gathering. Instead it 
was a gloomy and silent evening, conversation lan- 
guished, the guest in whose honour all were assembled 
said nothing, and Thackeray, too much depressed by 
the failure of the entertainment, but little. Mrs. 
Brookfield made an effort. "Do you like London, 
Miss Bronte?" she asked; then, after a pause, the other 
said gravely, ''Yes — no." Charlotte Bronte was the 
first to leave, and so soon as she had gone Thackeray 
slipped out of the drawing-room, and his eldest 
daughter was surprised to see him open the front door 
with his hat on. "He put his fingers to his lips, 
w^alked out into the darkness, and shut the door quietly 
behind him. When I went back to the drawing-room 
again, the ladies asked me where he was. I vaguely 
answered that I thought he was coming back," Lady 
Ritchie has written. "Long years afterwards, Mrs. 
Procter, with a good deal of humour, described the 
situation — the ladies, who had all come expecting so 
much delightful conversation, and the gloom and con- 
straint, and how finally, overwhelmed by the situation, 
my father had quietly left the room, left the house, and 
gone off to his club. The ladies waited, wondered, 
and finally departed also ; and as we were going up to 
1 Ibid., Vol. II, p. 143. 


bed with our candles, after everybody was gone, I 

remember two pretty Miss L 's, in shiny silk 

dresses, arriving full of expectation. . . . We still 
said we thought our father would soon be back, 

but the Miss L 's declined to wait upon the 

chance, laughed, and drove away again almost im- 

Once more Charlotte Bronte and Thackeray met, and 
again a letter of the lady tells the tale. '' I came here 
(London) on Wednesday, being summoned a day 
sooner than I expected, in order to be in time for 
Thackeray's second lecture, which was delivered on 
Thursday afternoon. This, as you may suppose, was 
a great treat, and I was glad not to miss it," she wrote 
to Ellen Nussey, on June 2, 185 1. "As our party left 
the (lecture) Hall, he (Thackeray) stood at the entrance; 
he saw and knew me, and lifted his hat ; he offered his 
hand in passing, and uttered the words, ' Qit'eii dttes- 
vous?^ — a question eminently characteristic and re- 
minding me, even in this his moment of triumph, 
of that inquisitive restlessness, that absence of what 
I considered desirable self-control, which were among 
his faults. He should not have cared just then to ask 
what I thought, or what anybody thought ; but he did 
care, and he was too natural to conceal, too impulsive 
to repress, his wish. Well ! if I blamed his over- 
eagerness, I liked his naivete. I would have praised 
him ; I had plenty of praise in my heart ; but, alas ! 
no words on my lips. Who has words at the right 
moment? I stammered lame expressions; but was 
truly glad when some other people, coming up with 

1 Chapter from Some Memoirs, p. 63. 

iSso] "THE LAST SKETCH" 313 

profuse congratulations, covered my deficiency by 
their redundancy."^ 

Indeed, though intensely appreciative, Charlotte 
Bronte proved so severe a critic, both of himself 
and his works, that Thackeray was not quite pleased 
with the various letters (printed in Mrs. Gaskell's 
"Life") in which she expressed her opinions, and 
he said so much in his ''Last Sketch," prefixed to 
"Emma," when, under his editorship, that fragment 
appeared in the Cornhill Magazine. 

I can only say of this lady, vidi tantiim. I saw 
her first just as I rose out of an illness from which 
I had never thought to recover. I remember the 
trembling little frame, the little hand, the great 
honest eyes. An impetuous honesty seemed to me 
to characterise the woman. Twice, I recollect, she 
took me to task for what she held to be errors in 
doctrine. Once about Fielding we had a disputation. 
She spoke her mind out. She jumped to conclusions 
(I have smiled at one or two passages in the " Bio- 
graphy " in which my own disposition or behaviour 
form the subject of talk). She formed conclusions 
that might be wrong, and built up whole theories of 
character upon them. New to the London world, she 
entered it with an independent indomitable spirit 
of her own ; and judged of contemporaries, and 
especially spied out arrogance or affectation, with 
extraordinary keenness of vision. She was angry 
with her favourites if their conduct or conversation 
fell below her ideal. Often she seemed to be judging 
the London folks prematurely ; but perhaps the 
city is rather angry at being judged. It fancied 
an austere little Joan of Arc marching in upon us, 
and rebutting our easy lives, our easy morals. 
She gave me the impression of being a very pure 
and lofty, and high-minded person. A great and 

* Clement Shorter: The Brontes, Vol. II, p. 214. 


holy reverence of right and truth seemed to be 
with her always. Such, in our brief interview, she 
appeared to me. 

Though Thackeray was flourishing, he was not 
satisfied with his prospects, for he feared his popularity 
might diminish. He was well aware that the earnings 
of a man of letters are precarious and he was anxious 
to make provision for his mother and stepfather, for his 
children, and for himself, should he, in spite of the 
physicians' opinion, live to be an old man. He had 
himself called to the bar on May 26, 1848, of course 
not with any intention to practise, but so as to be able 
to accept, if fate would only give him a chance, one of 
the many appointments for which only a barrister is 
eligible. He heard towards the end of 1848 of a post 
that he thought would suit him. 

But now comes the real and important part of this 
note [he wrote to Lady Blessington]. There will be a 
place vacant in the Post Office soon^ that of Assistant 
Secretary, at present held by Mr. James Campbell. 
What a place for a man of letters ! I think if Lord 
Clanricarde would give it to me I would satisfy my 
employers, and that my profession would be pleased 
by hearing of the employment of one of us. I 
wonder might I write to him, or is there any kind 
of person who would advocate my cause? 

Lady Blessington interested herself on his behalf, 
but her efforts were in vain. *' Another man has got 
it and deserves it too," Thackeray informed her, but 
he did not abandon hope of receiving an appointment 
under Government. In the next year he made another 
attempt to obtain a vacant magistracy, but again, 


i8so] "PENDENNIS" 315 

though this time backed by the influence of Monckton 
Milnes, he was unsuccessful. 

You are a good and lovable adviser and M.P., 
but I cannot get the Magistrate's place, not being 
eligible [he wrote to his friend]. I was only called to 
the Bar last year, and they require barristers of seven 
years' standing. Time will qualify me, however, 
and I hope to be able to last six years in the literary 
world ; for though I shall write, I daresay, very 
badly, yet the public won't find it out for some time, 
and I shall live on my past reputation. It is a pity 
to be sure. If I could get a place and rest, I think I 
could do something better than I have done, and 
leave a good and lasting book behind me ; but Fate 
is overruling. I have to thank L. for his kind letter, 
and to beg him to remember me if an opportunity 
occurs of serving me. I wonder whether Lord 
Palmerston could? But I would rather be in London. 
Thank you for thinking of me, and believe me, I am 

Having only his pen to rely on, Thackeray, who 
had taken his daughters for a holiday abroad, now 
went with them to Brighton, where he proposed to 
begin '* Pendennis," the publication of which was to 
begin in a month. He numbered among his friends 
resident there Horace, part-author of "Rejected Ad- 

That good, severe old man, who went out of the 
world in charity with all in it, and having shown 
through his life, as far as I know it, quite a delight- 
ful love of God's works and creatures ; a true, 
loyal, Christian man.^ 

^ Wemyss Reid : Life of Lord Houghton, Vol. I, p. 247. 
' A. H. Beavan : fames and Horace Smith, p. 305. 


To Smith's house in Cavendish Place he went soon 
after his arrival at Brighton, and confessed to the 
Misses Smith that he was in despair, he had to begin 
a new novel without delay, and had not an idea ; so 
then and there they told him a story of Brighton life. 
In return for this favour, he christened the heroine 
Laura, after his hostesses' married sister, Mrs. Round, 
who, when the story was finished, declared, indig- 
nantly, " I'll never speak to you again, Mr. Thackeray. 
You know I always meant to marry Bluebeard " — Lady 
Rockminster's name for George Warrington. 

The first number of " Pendennis," issued by Messrs, 
Bradbury and Evans, appeared in November 1848, 
and the publication of the story was continued month 
by month until the following September, when Thack- 
eray was ill, so ill, indeed, during September, October, 
and November that it seemed only too probable that he 
would never rise from the sick-bed. Dr. Merriman 
attended him, and also Dr. Elliotson, to whom "Pen- 
dennis," on its publication in book-form, was dedi- 
cated. It was not until December that Thackeray's 
recovery was assured ; and on the 7th of that month 
Edward FitzGerald wrote to Frederick Tennyson : " I 
saw poor Thackeray in London, getting slowly better 
of a bilious fever that had nearly killed him. . . . 
People in general thought ''Pendennis" got dull as 
it got on ; and I confess I thought so too : he would 
do well to take the opportunity of his illness to dis- 
continue it altogether. He told me last June he himself 
was tired of it, and must not his readers naturally 
tire too?" 

Fortunately, Thackeray, after being rescued from 

illness, was saved from his friends, and the twelfth 
number of "Pendennis" appeared in January of the 
new year. FitzGerald, re-reading the novel years later, 
altered his opinion. << I like 'Pendennis' much," he 
then said; *'and Alfred (Tennyson) said he thought 
it was quite delicious; * it seemed to him so mature,' 
he said. You can imagine Alfred saying this over 
one's fire, spreading his great hand out." Thackeray, 
who had a habit of passing remarks on his books, said 
of this one : *' I can't say I think much of ' Pendennis ' 
— at least of the execution, it certainly drags about the 
middle ; but I had an attack of illness at the time I 
reached that part of the book, and could not make it 
any better than I did. But how well-written it is ! " 
Well-written it is certainly, and wonderfully interest- 
ing, for, like "Vanity Fair," beginning quietly, it 
gathered force and volume as it proceeded. 

"Pendennis," as has already been said, is so auto- 
biographical in parts that most readers acquainted 
with the social history of the forties of the last 
century endeavour to trace the " originals," and 
the curiosity that suggests the enquiry, though 
it may not be legitimate, is at least natural. It must 
be borne in mind, however, that Thackeray never 
wilfully copied anybody ; he was, as George Augustus 
Sala put it, "only gently and skilfully assimilative 
and combinative in his characters, which passed 
through the alembic of his study and observation." 
In "Vanity Fair" the author declared that Sir Pitt 
Crawley was the only exact portrait in the book : it 
has lately been asserted that a former Lord Rolle sat 
for the character ; the prototype of "the richly dressed 


figure of the Wicked Nobleman, on which no expense 
has been spared," Lord Steyne, undoubtedly was 
suggested by the second and third Marquises of 
Hertford, and the inimitable Becky was drawn from 
the companion of a wealthy and selfish old lady who 
lived in the neighbourhood of Kensington Square. 
How far Arthur Pendennis resembled Thackeray has 
already been discussed, but for the statement that in 
this story more than any other he drew upon his ac- 
quaintances there is the author's authority. 

You will find much to remind you of old talks and 
faces — of William John O'Connell, Jack Sheehan 
and Andrew Arcedeckne — in this book [he wrote to 
George Moreland Crawford, who had nursed him 
through the illness that nearly left the story a 
fragment]. There is something of you in Warring- 
ton, but he is not fit to hold a candle to you, for, 
taking you all round, you are the most genuine 
fellow that ever strayed from a better world into this. 
You don't smoke, and he is a confirmed smoker of 
tobacco. Bordeaux and port were your favourites 
at 'The Deanery' and 'The Garrick,' and War. is 
always guzzling beer. But he has your honesty, 
and like you could not posture if he tried. You had 
a strong affinity for the Irish. May you some day 
find an Irish girl to lead you to matrimony. There's 
no such good wife as a daughter of Erin.^ 

"Merry Andrew" Arcedeckne, a member of the 
Garrick Club, sat for Foker, and it is probably this 
portrait that was the cause of the author's rejection at 
the Travellers' Club in 1856. The ballot there is by 
the members and not by the committee, and the 
majority gave the reason for their action that they 

1 Critic (N. Y.), December 26, 1885. 


were afraid of seeing themselves in some future novel. 
It is said that Arcedeckne was often called " Phoca " ; 
hence the name by which he is immortalised ; and that 
he was small in stature, eccentric in his mode of dress- 
ing, drove mail-coaches as an amateur, loved fighting 
dogs, game-cocks, and the prize-ring, and had a large 
estate in Norfolk. Cordy Jeaffreson states that Foker 
was no caricature, and that the character was a genial 
and flattering portrait of the prototype. Arcedeckne 
resembled Foker, however, in so far that he, too, was 
no fool. Thackeray had treated him badly by holding 
him up to ridicule, but he was too sensible to complain : 
none the less he contrived that the laughter should 
not all be on one side. Arcedeckne was that member of 
the Garrick whose presence and speech. Dean Hole 
observed, ''seemed to irritate Thackeray, and who 
found pleasure in exercising his power as a gadfly 
on a thoroughbred horse." One night in the club 
smoking-room Thackeray was in the middle of a story 
when Arcedeckne entered : Thackeray saw him, hesi- 
tated, stopped : whereupon his persecutor with bland 
smile and gracious manner encouraged him to continue ; 
"Proceed, sweet warbler," he said, "thy story in- 
terests me." It was Arcedeckne, too, who congratulated 
Thackeray on one of his lectures : " Brayvo ! Thack, 
my boy ! Uncommon good show. But it'll never go 
•without a planner ! " 

The noblemen of the staff of the original Pall Mall 
Gazette in "Pendennis" were Lords William and 
Henry Lennox and a brother of the Duke of St. 
Albans, and of the last Jack Sheehan used to say, 
*' His name of Beauclerk is a misnomer, for he is 


always in a fog, and never clear about anything." 
Many of the " Fraserians" sat for the literary portraits 
in *' Pendennis," the ferocious Bludyer, stout old Tom 
Sergeant, and brilliant Charles Shandon. It has been 
suggested that Jack Sheehan may have been the 
original Shandon, but the character was probably 
drawn, in part at least, from Dr. Maginn. But 
Maginn was a greater than Shandon. He may have 
dictated the prospectus of some Pall Mall Gazette from 
the Fleet Prison ; he may have written — indeed, he did 
write — articles that are models of virulent abuse ; but 
he was a parodist of no mean merit, and his Shake- 
spearian essays and his Latin versions of ''Chevy 
Chase " and other ballads extorted praise even from his 

These and other literary portraits in "Pendennis" 
brought in their train great annoyance to Thackeray, 
for many members of the Fourth Estate took umbrage, 
and declared that the author had set out to hold up to 
contempt workers in literature and journalism. So 
long as the matter was discussed at the Clubs, 
Thackerary took no notice of the comments ; but when 
the abuse of him was transferred to the newspapers, in 
justice to himself he was compelled to put his case 
before the public. 

In a leading article of your journal of Thursday, 
the 3rd instant, you commented upon literary pen- 
sions and the status of literary men in this country, 
and illustrated your argument by extracts from the 
story of "Pendennis," at present in course of pub- 
lication [he wrote to the Editor of the Morning 
Chronicle, on January 8, 1850]. You have received 
my writings with so much kindness that, if you have 


occasion to disapprove of them or the author, I can't 
question your right to blame me, or doubt for a 
moment the friendliness and honesty of my critic ; 
and however I might dispute the justice of your 
verdict in my case, I had proposed to submit to it in 
silence, being, indeed, very quiet in my conscience 
with regard to the charge made against me. But 
another newspaper of high character and repute 
takes occasion to question the principles advocated 
in your article of Thursday, arguing in favour of 
pensions for literary persons, as you argued against 
them ; and the only point upon which the Examiner 
and the Chronicle appear to agree unluckily regards 
myself, who am offered up to general reprehension in 
two leading articles by the two writers : by the latter 
for "fostering a baneful prejudice " against literary 
men ; by the former for "stooping to flatter" this 
prejudice in the public mind, and condescending to 
caricature (as is too often my habit) my literary 
fellow-labourers in order to pay court to "the non- 
literary class." The charges of the Examiner 2ig2i\\\^\. 
a man who has never, to his knowledge, been 
ashamed of his profession, or (except for its dulness) 
of any single line from his pen — grave as they are — 
are, I hope, not proven. "To stoop to flatter" any 
class is a novel accusation brought against my 
writings ; and as for my scheme " to pay court to the 
non-literary class by disparaging my literary fellow- 
labourers," it is a design which would exhibit a 
degree, not only of baseness, but of folly, upon my 
part, of which I trust I am not capable. The editor 
of the Examiner may, perhaps, occasionally write, 
like other authors, in a hurry, and not be aware of 
the conclusions to which some of his sentences may 
lead. If I stoop to flatter anybody's prejudice for 
some interested motives of my own, I am no more 
nor less than a rogue and a cheat : which deduction 
from the Examiner' s premises I will not stoop to 
contradict, because the premises themselves are 
simply absurd. I deny that the considerable body 
of our countrymen described by the Examiner as 

I.— Y 


*'the non-literary class " has the least gratification in 
witnessing the degradation or disparagement of 
literary men. Why accuse ''the non-literary class" 
of being so ungrateful? If the writings of an 
author give a reader pleasure or profit, surely the 
latter will have a favourable opinion of the person 
who so benefits him. What intelligent man, of 
what political views, would not receive with respect 
and welcome that writer of the Examiner of whom 
your paper once said that he "made all England 
laugh and think "? Who would deny to that brilliant 
wit, that polished satirist, his just tribute of respect 
and admiration ? Does any man who has written a 
book worth reading — any poet, novelist, man of 
science — lose reputation by his character for genius 
or for learning? Does he not, on the contrary, get 
friends, sympathy, applause — money, perhaps? all 
good and pleasant things in themselves, and not 
ungenerously awarded, as they are honestly won. 
That generous faith in men of letters, that kindly 
regard in which the whole reading nation holds 
them, appear to me to be so clearly shown in our 
country every day that to question them would be as 
absurd as, permit me to say for my part, it would be 
ungrateful. What is it that fills mechanics' insti- 
tutes in the great provincial towns when literary men 
are invited to attend their festivals? Has not every 
literary man of mark his friends and his circle, his 
hundreds, or his tens of thousands, of readers? And 
has not every one had from these constant and affect- 
ing testimonials of the esteem in which they hold 
him. It is of course one writer's lot, from the nature 
of his subject or of his genius, to command thej 
sympathies or awaken the curiosity of many morei 
readers than shall choose to listen to another author ; 
but surely all get their hearing. The literary pro- 
fession is not held in disrepute; nobody wants toj 
disparage it ; no man loses his social rank, whatever] 
it may be, by practising it. On the contrary, the' 
pen gives a place in the world to men who had none 
before — a fair place, fairly achieved by their genius, 


as any other degree of eminence is by any other kind 
of merit. Literary men need not, as it seems to me, 
be in the least querulous about their position any 
more, or want the pity of anybody. The money- 
prizes which the chief among them get are not so 
high as those which fall to men of other callings — to 
bishops, or to judges, or to opera-singers and actors; 
nor have they received stars and garters as yet, or 
peerages and governorships of islands, such as fall 
to the lot of military officers. The rewards of the 
profession are not to be measured by the money 
standard ; for one man spends a life of learning and 
labour on a book which does not pay the printer's 
bill, and another gets a little fortune by a few light 
volumes. But, putting the money out of the ques- 
tion, I believe that the social estimation of the man 
of letters is as good as it deserves to be, and as good 
as that of any other professional man. With respect 
to the question in debate between you and the 
Examiner as to the propriety of public rewards and 
honours for literary men, I don't see why men of 
letters should not very cheerfully coincide with Mr. 
Examiner in accepting all the honours, places, and 
prizes which they can get. The amount of such as 
will be awarded to them will not, we may be pretty 
sure, impoverish the country much ; and if it is the 
custom of the State to reward by money, or 
titles of honour, or stars and garters of any sort, 
individuals who do the country service, and if in- 
dividuals are gratified at having *'Sir" or ** My 
lord " appended to their names, or stars and ribands 
hooked on their coats and waistcoats, as men most 
undoubtedly are, and as their wives, families, and 
relations are, there can be no reason why men of 
letters should not have the chance, as well as men 
of the robe or the sword ; or why, if honour and 
money are good for one profession, they should not 
be good for another. No man in other callings 
thinks himself degraded by receiving a reward from 
his Government ; nor, surely, need the literary man 
be more squeamish about pensions, and ribands, and 


titles, than the ambassador, or general, or judge. 
Every European State but ours rewards its men of 
letters ; the American Government gives them their 
full share of its small patronage ; and if Americans, 
why not Englishmen ? If Pitt Crawley is disappointed 
at not getting a riband on returning from his diplo- 
matic post at Pumpernickel, if General O'Dowd is 
pleased to be called Sir Hector O'Dowd, k.c.b., and 
his wife at being denominated my Lady O'Dowd, are 
literary men to be the only persons exempt from 
vanity, and is it to be a sin in them to covet honour? 
And now, with regard to the charge against myself 
of fostering baneful prejudices against our calling — 
to which I no more plead guilty than I should think 
Fielding would have done if he had been accused 
of a design to bring the Church into contempt by 
describing Parson Trulliber — permit me to say that 
before you deliver sentence it would be as well if you 
had waited to hear the whole of the argument. Who 
knows what is coming in the future numbers of the 
work which has incurred your displeasure and the 
Examiner's? and whether you, in accusing me of 
prejudice, and the Examiner (alas !) of swindling 
and flattering the public, have not been premature? 
Time and the hour may solve this mystery, for which 
the candid reader is referred "to our next." That 
I have a prejudice against running into debt, and 
drunkenness and disorderly life, and against quackery 
and falsehood in my profession, I own ; and that 
I like to have a laugh at those pretenders in it who 
write confidential news about fashion and politics for 
^xov\nQA2\ goh em ouches ; but lam not aware of feeling 
any malice in describing this weakness, or of doing 
anything wrong in exposing the former vices. Have 
they never existed amongst literary men ? Have 
their talents never been urged as a plea for improvi- 
dence, and their very faults adduced as a consequence 
of their genius? The only moral that I, as a writer, 
wished to hint in the descriptions against which you 
protest, was, that it was the duty of a literary man, 
as well as any other, to practise regularity and 


sobriety, to love his family, and to pay his trades- 
men. Nor is the picture I have drawn "a caricature 
which I condescend to," any more than it is a wilful 
and insidious design on my part to flatter "the non- 
literary class." If it be a caricature, it is the result 
of a natural perversity of vision, not of an artful 
desire to mislead ; but my attempt was to tell the 
truth, and I meant to tell it not unkindly. I have 
seen the bookseller from Bludyer robbed of his 
books ; I have carried money, and from a noble 
brother man-of-letters, to some one not unlike Shandon 
in prison, and have watched the beautiful devotion 
of his wife in that dreary place. Why are these 
things not to be described, if they illustrate, as they 
appear to me to do, that strange and awful struggle 
of good and wrong which takes place in our hearts 
and in the world? It may be that I worked out my 
moral ill, or it may be possible that the critic of the 
Examiner fails in apprehension. My efforts as an 
artist come perfectly within his province as a censor ; 
but when Mr. Examiner says of a gentleman that he 
is "stooping to flatter a public prejudice" — which 
public prejudice does not exist — I submit that he 
makes a charge which is as absurd as it is unjust, 
and am thankful that it repels itself. And, instead 
of accusing the public of persecuting and disparag- 
ing us as a class, it seems to me that men of letters 
had best silently assume that they are as good as any 
other gentlemen, nor raise piteous controversies upon 
a question which all people of sense must take to be 
settled. If I sit at your table, I suppose that I am 
my neighbour's equal, as that he is mine. If I began 
straightway with a protest of "Sir, I am a literary 
man, but I would have you to know I am as good as 
you," which of us is it that questions the dignity 
of the literary profession — my neighbour, who would 
like to eat his soup in quiet, or the man of letters, 
who commences the argument? And I hope that 
a comic writer, because he describes one author as 
improvident and another as a parasite, may not only 
be guiltless of a desire to vilify his profession, but 


may really have its honour at heart. If there are no 
spendthrifts or parasites amongst us, the satire be- 
comes unjust ; but if such exist, or have existed, they 
are as good subjects for comedy as men of other 
callings. I never heard that the Bar felt itself ag- 
grieved because Punch chose to describe Mr. Dunup's 
notorious state of insolvency ; or that the picture 
of Stiggins in Pickwick was intended as an insult 
to all Dissenters ; or that all the attorneys in the 
empire were indignant at the famous history of the 
firm of " Quirk, Gammon, and Snap." Are we to be 
passed over because we are faultless, or because we 
cannot afford to be laughed at? And if every char- 
acter in a story is to represent a class, not an 
individual — if every bad figure is to have its obliged 
contrast of a good one, and a balance of vice and 
virtue is to be struck — novels, I think, would become 
impossible, as they would be intolerably stupid and 
unnatural, and there would be a lamentable end of 
writers and readers of such compositions.^ 

Thackeray was the last person who should have been 
charged with an attempt to lower the dignity of letters. 
He never thought lightly of his profession, and again 
and again he spoke of the sense of responsibility that 
an author should feel. 

What a place it is to hold in the affections of man ! 
What an awful responsibility hanging over a writer ! 
What man, holding such a place, and knowing that 
his words go forth to vast congregations of mankind 
— to grown folks, to their children, and, perhaps to 
their children's children — but must think of his calling 
with a solemn and a humble heart ! May love and 
truth guide such a man always ! It is an awful prayer, 
and may Heaven further its fulfilment !- 

^ Morniyig Chronicle, January 12, 1850. 

2 Mr. Brown's Letters — Brown the Younger at a Club. 


He expressed the same sentiments in his reply to Dr. 
John Brown, when that gentleman, then unknown to 
him, presented to him in 1848 a silver statuette of 
Punch purchased by some Edinburgh admirers of his 

The arms and the man arrived in safety yesterday, 
and I am glad to know the names of two of the eighty 
Edinburgh friends who have taken such a kind 
method of showing their goodwill towards me. If 
you are grati, I am gratior. Such tokens of regard 
and sympathy are very precious to a writer like 
myself, who has some difficulty still in making people 
understand what you have been good enough to find 
out in Edinburgh, that under the mask satirical there 
walks about a sentimental gentleman who means not 
unkindly to any mortal person. I can see exactly the 
same expression under the vizard of my little friend 
in silver, and hope some day to shake the whole octo- 
gint by the hand gratos and gratas, and thank them 
for their friendliness and regard. I think I had better 
say no more on the subject, lest I should be tempted 
into some enthusiastic writing of which I am afraid. 
I assure you these tokens of what I can't help ac- 
knowledging as popularity — make me humble as well 
as grateful — and make me feel an almost awful sense 
of the responsibility which falls upon a man in such a 
station. Is it deserved or undeserved? Who is this 
that sets up to preach to mankind and to laugh at 
many of the things which men reverence? I hope I 
shall be able to tell the truth always, and to see it 
aright according to the eyes which God Almighty 
gives me. And if, in the exercise of my calling, I get 
friends, and find encouragement and sympathy, I 
need not tell you how much I feel and am thankful 
for this support. — Indeed, I can't reply lightly upon 
this subject or feel otherwise than very grave when 
men praise me as you do.^ 

1 Dr. John Brown : Thackeray {North British Review^ February 1864 ; 
Vol. XI, pp. 224-5). 


Thackeray, however, in spite of his reverence for his 
calling, had no patience with those who prated pom- 
pously of their '' call " to the work ; and he would not 
allow that even literary genius was an excuse for 

Men of letters cannot lay their hands on their 
hearts, and say, "No, the fault" (that caused their 
intellectual inferiors to sneer at them) "was Fortune's 
and the indifferent world's, not Goldsmith's or Field- 
ing's." There was no reason why Oliver should 
always be thriftless ; why Fielding and Steele should 
sponge upon their friends ; why Sterne should make 
love to his neighbour's wives. Swift, for a long 
while, was as poor as any wag that ever laughed, but 
he owed no penny to his neighbour ; Addison, when 
he wore his most threadbare coat, would hold his 
head up and maintain his dignity; and, I dare vouch, 
neither of these gentlemen, when they were ever so 
poor, asked any man alive to pity their condition, 
and have a regard to the weaknesses incidental to the 
literary profession.^ 

He was always concerned to state what should be the 
literary man's point of honour. In his struggling days 
he set it forth as it appeared to him. 

To do your work honestly, to amuse and instruct 
your reader of to-day, to die when your time comes, 
and go hence with as clean a breast as may be ; may 
all these be yours and ours, by God's will. Let us be 
content with our status as literary craftsmen, telling 
the truth as far as may be, hitting no foul blow, con- 
descending to no servile puffery, filling not a very 
lofty, but a manly and honourable part. 

^ A Brother of the Press on . . . the Chances of the Literary Profes- 
sion {Fraser's Magazine, March 1846). 


Towards the end of his life, when paying tribute to 
Tom Hood, as when writing his beautiful appreciation 
of Washington Irving and Macaulay, he returned to 
the subject. 

It may not be our chance, brother scribe, to be 
endowed with such merit or rewarded with such 
fame [he concluded his appreciation of Macaulay and 
Washington Irving]. But the rewards of these men 
are rewards paid to our service. We may not win the 
baton or epaulettes, but God give us strength to 
guard the honour of the flag ! 

It is pleasing to think that he who wrote these lines 
was ever in the foremost rank of those who pressed 
forward to fight for the honour of the flag. 




The last number of " Pendennis " issued — Thackeray proposes to 
lecture — his friends' objections — a subject found in "The English 
Humourists of the Eighteenth Century " — the first lecture at Willis's 
Rooms — Thackeray's nervousness — accounts of his reading — the 
audiences — a furore for the lectures — Thackeray invited to deliver 
them in England and America — he writes "Esmond" — refuses to 
contribute to "Social Zoologies" — George M. Smith secures the 
pubHshing rights of "Esmond" — Thackeray's publishers — Thackeray's 
comments on "Esmond" — " Esmond's" place in literature — Thack- 
eray and his daughters go abroad — he returns to London — prepares 
for the American lecture tour. 

THE last number of "Pendennis" appeared 
in December 1850, and early in the following 
year it was announced that Thackeray would 
make his dehiit as a lecturer. Anthony 
Trollope in his monograph on Thackeray devoted 
two pages of his short biographical chapter to the 
consideration of the effect that lecturing might have 
had upon Thackeray's fame as a writer, arguing for and 
against the indignity of the proceedings, and eventually 
concluding that the money made by the new venture 
was " earned honestly and with the full approval of the 
world around him."^ Who can doubt it? Even the 
reputation of the author of "Vanity Fair" was not 

^ Thackeray (English Men of Letters), pp. 43-5. 



From a ficncii sketch by Ricliard Doyle, in the British Museum 


likely to be imperilled by reading to an audience ** The 
English Humourists of the Eighteenth Century " or 
*'The Four Georges" ; but Thackeray was not happy 
about it. Sir Edward Hamley and other friends 
remonstrated with him, arguing that a man of his 
talents should not waste his time in such a way ; and 
Thackeray told Lady CuUum no one could conceive 
how it mortified him to have to make money by 
lecturing: speaking of Carlyle, "//e would not go 
round making a show of himself as I am doing," he 
exclaimed. ''But he has lectured! He did it once, 
and was done with it." However, he forced himself to 
overcome his objections, remembering it was his 
duty, as it was, of course, his desire, to make money 
to replace his patrimony, and thus to make provision 
for his family. 

But as I don't intend to touch the proceeds of the 
lectures myself [he wrote to Dr. John Brown] and 
shall invest all the winnings for my two girls 
and their poor mother, I'm bolder than I should be 
otherwise in the business, and determined to carry it 
through with brazen resolution. 

The subject selected for the series of lectures was 
** The English Humourists of the Eighteenth Century." 
The writers of this period had always been Thackeray's 
favourite reading, and at the moment they were much 
in his mind, owing to the fact that he was studying the 
eighteenth century, which was to be the scene of the 
novel upon which he was now engaged. 

The first lecture was given on the afternoon of 
May 22, and the others were delivered on May 29, 
June 12, 19, 26, and July 3. The price for a reserved 


seat for the course was two guineas, and seven shillings 
and sixpence was charged for an unreserved place for a 
single lecture. Always averse to public speaking, 
Thackeray's nervousness during the half-hour before 
the delivery of the first lecture was pitiable. "Going 
thither (to Willis's Rooms) before the time for his 
beginning," Mrs. Kemble has related, "I found him 
standing like a forlorn, disconsolate giant in the middle 
of the room, gazing about him. ' Oh, Lord,' he ex- 
claimed, as he shook hands with me, ' I'm sick at my 
stomach with fright.' I spoke some words of encourage- 
ment to him, and was going away, but he held 
my hand like a scared child, crying, * Oh, don't 
leave me!' 'But,' said I, 'Thackeray, you mustn't 
stand here. Your audience are beginning to come in,' 
and I drew him from the middle of his chairs and 
benches, which were beginning to be occupied, into 
the retiring-room adjoining the lecture-room, my own 
readings having made me perfectly familiar with both. 
Here he began pacing up and down, literally wringing 
his hands in nervous distress. 'Now,' said I, 'what 
shall I do ? Shall I stay with you till you begin, or 
shall I go, and leave you alone to collect yourself?' 
'Oh,' he said, 'if I could only get at that confounded 
thing (the MS.) to have a last look at it ! ' ' Where is 
it? 'said I. 'Oh, in the next room on the reading- 
desk.' 'Well,' said I, 'if you don't like to go in and 
get it, I'll fetch it for you.' And remembering well 
the position of my reading-table, which had been close 
to the door of the retiring-room, I darted in, hoping to 
snatch the manuscript without attracting the attention 
of the audience, with which the room was already 


nearly full. I had been used to deliver my reading 
seated at a very low table, but my friend Thackeray 
gave his lectures standing, and had a reading-desk 
placed on the platform, adapted to his own very tall 
stature, so that when I came to get his manuscript it 
was almost above my head. Though rather dis- 
concerted, I was determined not to go back without it, 
and so made a half-jump and a clutch at the book, 
when every leaf of it (they were not fastened together) 
came fluttering separately down about me. I hardly 
know what I did, but I think I must have gone nearly 
on all fours, in my agony to gather up the scattered 
leaves, and, retreating with them, held them out in 
dismay to poor Thackeray, crying, * Oh, look, look, 
what a dreadful thing I have done ! ' ' My dear soul,' 
he said, ' you couldn't have done better for me. I have 
just a quarter of an hour to wait here, and it will take 
me about that to page this again, and it's the best 
thing in the world that could have happened.' With 
which infinite kindness he comforted me, for I was all 
but crying, at having, as I thought, increased his 
distress and troubles."^ 

In spite of the nervousness which so affected his voice 
that his daughter did not recognise it when she heard 
the opening words, '* In treating of the English 
Humourists of the past age, it is of the men and of 
their lives, rather than of their books, that I ask 
permission to speak to you," Thackeray gathered 
courage as he proceeded, and was entirely success- 
ful. Very different from Dickens's dramatic readings 
were Thackeray's lectures ; and, indeed, so far as can 

^ Records of Later Life. 


be gathered from the reports of those present, the two 
performances bore the relationship that exists between 
melodrama and comedy : each admirable of its kind — 
but there the resemblance ends. Sir Frank Marzials 
says that the secret of Thackeray's charm "lay in an 
admirable quiet delivery, that, without undue emphasis 
or pause for effect, gave the hearer the full value of 
every sentence." Charlotte Bronte wrote to her father 
that "Thackeray got up and spoke with as much 
simplicity and ease as if he had been speaking to a few 
friends by his own fireside ; the lecture was truly good 
. . . ; it was finished without being in the least 
studied, — a quiet humour and graphic force enlivened 
it throughout" ; and Caroline Fox said he read in "a 
definite dry manner, but makes you understand what 
he is about." Longfellow recorded that the lectures 
were "pleasant to hear from that soft, deep, sonorous 
voice " ; and Motley, who some years later heard a 
lecture on " The Four Georges," wrote : "I was much 
impressed with the quiet, graceful ease with which 
Thackeray read — ^just a few notes above the conversa- 
tional level, — but never rising into the declamatory. 
This light-in-hand manner suits well the delicate 
hovering rather than superficial style of the composi- 
tion. He skims lightly over the surface of the long 
epoch, throwing out a sketch here, exhibiting a charac- 
teristic trait there, and sprinklingabout a few anecdotes, 
portraits, and historical allusions, running about from 
grave to gay, from lively to severe, moving and mocking 
the sensibilities in a breath, in a way which I should 
say was the perfection of lecturing to high-bred 


The audiences at Willis's Rooms included many of 
the most famous persons in London. Besides Charlotte 
Bronte, Carlyle and his wife went, Harriet Martineau, 
too, and Monckton Milnes, Hallam, Dickens, Lord 
Carlisle, the Brookfields, Doyle, Cruikshank, Kinglake, 
Lord Mahon, Millais, Landseer, Dean Milman, the 
Duchess of Sutherland, and Lady Ashburton. Macaulay 
was present at each lecture, and referred to one of them 
in his diary : ' ' Margaret came to take me to Thackeray's 
(third) lecture. He is full of humour and imagination, 
and I only wish that these lectures may answer both in 
the way of fame and money. He told me, as I was 
going out, that the scheme had done wonders for him ; 
and I told him, and from my heart, that I wish he had 
made ten times as much." ^ 

The truth is the lectures won't do [Thackeray 
wrote to Abraham Hayward on May 23]. They were 
all friends, and a packed house, though, to be sure, 
it goes to a man's heart to find among his friends 
such men as you and Kinglake and Venables, 
Higgins, Rawlinson, Carlyle, Ashburton, Hallam, 
Milman, Macaulay, Wilberforce, looking on.^ 

But the lectures did do. They were an undoubted 
success — " There is quite q. furore for them," Charlotte 
Bronte wrote — and Thackeray was invited to repeat 
them by Young Men's Associations and Literary Clubs 
all over the country. " They make me an offer of ;^i50 
at the Portman Square Rooms— pretty well for six 
hours"; he said gleefully, reflecting that an hour's 
reading would be as profitable as a week's work. 

1 Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, p. 552. 
^ Correspondence of Abraham Hayward. 


So he accepted many offers — as he put it, ''the 
Titmarsh-Van began its career " — and delivered the 
" EngHsh Humourists" at Oxford and Cambridge, at 
Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, and a score of 
other places during the year. 

From the United States also came invitations too 
tempting to be refused, and some of these were enter- 
tained, though Thackeray could not be persuaded to 
sign any contract until he arrived in New York. Before 
leaving England, however, he had to finish the novel 
upon which he was engaged, " The History of Henry 
Esmond, Esquire : A Colonel in the service of Queen 
Anne, Written by Himself." This was to be published 
in three volumes. " I have given up and only had for 
a day or two, the notion for the book in numbers," 
Thackeray said. ''It is much too grave and sad for 
that." Diligent reading of eighteenth-century memoirs 
was necessary for "Esmond," and Eyre Crowe, who 
from April 1851 was Thackeray's secretary and amanu- 
ensis, has related how the author, with him in attend- 
ance, spent much time in the British Museum Library, 
where, in a room allotted to him for the purpose 
by Panizzi, he dictated the General Webb and Marl- 
borough and Cadogan incident. More of the book 
was written at the Athenaeum Club, where one of the 
side rooms off the large library was placed at his 
disposal; and muchjwas done at the Bedford Hotel, 
while his children were with his mother and Major 
Carmichael-Smyth in Paris, and the Young Street 
house was in the painters' hands. 

Shortly after the publication of the early numbers 
of "Vanity Fair," Henry Vizetelly, on behalf of 

1 1 1.3 



As he appeared at Willis's Kooms in Iiis cckbrated cliaracter of Mr. Thackeray. 

Ffoiii a sketch hy John Leech in " The Month,' J„/y, /Sj/ 

i8S2] "ESMOND" 337 

Bogue, the publisher, had invited Thackeray to write 
as many little volumes as he would undertake 
for a series called "Social Zoologies." The first 
brochure, "The Gent," by Albert Smith, had been 
phenomenally successful ; and Bogue very wisely deter- 
mined to secure the best writers for future volumes. 
The terms were liberal : a hundred guineas — ^just double 
the amount paid for a monthly part, including the 
etching of two plates, of "Vanity Fair." Thackeray 
admitted the offer was tempting, but declined — it was 
said, by reason of his disinclination to be associated in 
any way with Albert Smith. Vizetelly remarked that 
Thackeray could not tolerate Smith's mauvais gout, 
and that, though showing him outward civility when 
brought into contact with him, the occasional observa- 
tions which escaped him disclosed his true sentiments 
respecting the other's mountebank ways. When 
"Pendennis" was nearly finished, Vizetelly again ap- 
proached Thackeray, this time on behalf of Messrs. 
Smith, Elder and Co. ; and subsequently George Smith, 
the head of the firm, called at Young Street. "There's 
a young fellow just come," Thackeray said, as he 
burst into the room where his daughters were sitting. 
" He has brought a thousand pounds in his pocket : 
he has made me an offer for my book : it's the most 
spirited, handsome offer, I scarcely like to take him 
at his word : he's hardly more than a boy ; his name 
is George Smith ; he's waiting there now, and I must 
go back to him." The actual terms were ^^1200 for an 
edition of 2500 copies, to be issued in three volumes 
at a guinea and a half. 

Thackeray had published his earliest books through 

I.— z 


Macrone and Cunningham ; but afterwards he had 
gone to Messrs. Chapman and Hall and Messrs. Brad- 
bury and Evans, the former issuing "The Irish Sketch 
Book", "From Cornhill to Cairo", "Mrs. Perkins's 
Ball", "Our Street", "Dr. Birch and His Young 
Friends", and "Rebecca and Rowena " ; the latter, 
"Vanity Fair", "Pendennis", "The Book of Snobs," 
and " The Great Hoggarty Diamond." Messrs. Chap- 
man and Hall had not been satisfied with the sale of 
"Dr. Birch" and "Rebecca and Rowena," and were 
not eager to issue another Christmas Book : where- 
upon Thackeray invited Messrs. Smith, Elder and Co. 
to issue "The Kickleburys on the Rhine," and the 
offer was at once accepted. This was the beginning 
of the connection between the novelist and the great 
publishing house, which in the course of the next few 
years issued "Esmond", "The English Humourists," 
and "The Rose and the Ring." Thackeray, however, 
did not desert his old friends, the proprietors of Punc/i, 
and Messrs. Bradbury and Evans published "The 
Newcomes," the four volumes of "Miscellanies" 
(1855-7), ^"d " The Virginians "; and it was not until 
after the founding of the Cornhill Magazine^ by pur- 
chasing the rights of the other firms, that Messrs. 
Smith, Elder and Co. became Thackeray's sole pub- 

In May 1852 Edward FitzGerald saw Thackeray, 
who, he says, "was just in the agony of finishing a 
novel " and desirous to go abroad for a brief holiday. 
The book was finished on May 28, when Thackeray 
gave a dinner party to celebrate the occasion. 

"You'll find it dull, but it's founded upon family 


papers," Thackeray said of *' Esmond" to John (after- 
wards Canon) Irvine ; and to another friend he 
stated his conviction that the hero is a prig : but 
probably he expressed his true opinion to Fields, who 
met him soon after his arrival in Boston with the three 
volumes of '* Esmond " tucked under his arm : " Here 
is the very best I can do ; and I am carrying it to 
Prescott as a reward of merit for having given me my 
first dinner in America. I stand by this book, and am 
willing to leave it where I go as my card."^ Especially 
did Thackeray like the chapter where Henry Esmond 
returns to Lady Castlewood, bringing his sheaves with 
him, as she says — " I wish the whole book was as 
good," he added, '' but we can't play first fiddle all the 

Charlotte Bronte might think that in "Esmond" 
there was ''too much history — too little story," and 
George Eliot might pronounce it " a most uncomfort- 
able book " ; historical critics might object that there 
are blunders : that Thackeray makes the Duke of 
Hamilton a few years younger than he was, and makes 
him a widower when, as a matter of fact, he had 
married a second time in 1698, and was outlived by his 
wife ; that Lady Dorchester was not the daughter of 
Tom Killigrew but of Sir Charles Sedley ; that Esmond 
and Beatrix refer to " Peter Wilkins " some forty years 
before that book was published ; that the play which 
Lord Castlewood and Lord Mohun went to see at 
Drury Lane could not have been ''Love in a Wood," 
because, for one reason anyway, the disguise of a 
page is not worn by any of the ladies taking part in 

1 J. T. Fields : Yesterdays with Authors, 

that comedy ; and so on. Yet, in spite of all who find 
fault with it, "Esmond" has taken its place in litera- 
ture, not only as one of the author's masterpieces — for 
"Vanity Fair" ranks with it — but as one of the best 
historical novels ever written. "Never could I have 
believed," said Walter Savage Landor when the book 
was published, "that Thackeray, great as his abilities 
are, could have written so noble a story as ' Esmond.' " 
"A greater novel than 'Esmond' I do not know," 
Professor Saintsbury has written half a century later, 
"and I do not know many greater works." 

When Esmond was finished Thackeray went abroad 
again with his children, and he was somewhat amused 
at the difference in his attitude when travelling en 
gargon and as a family man. They went to Antwerp, 
then down the Rhine, and then to Switzerland, returning 
via Paris, where Thackeray left his daughters with 
Mrs. Carmichael-Smyth, feeling very keenly the part- 
ing with them. 

You have just parted from the dear ones with 
bursting heart ; and, lonely man, just torn from your 
children . . . their little tokens of affection yet in 
your pocket . . . pacing the deck at evening in the 
midst of the roaring ocean, you can remember how 
you were told supper was ready, and how you went 
down into the cabin, and had brandy and water and 
biscuit. You remember the taste of them. Yes, 
for ever. You took them while you and your Grief 
were sitting together, and your Grief clutched you 
round the soul. 

Before Thackeray could go to America, however, 
there were more lectures to deliver, "Vanity Fair" to 
be revised for a cheaper edition, and the proofs of 


*' Esmond" to be passed for press. The original 
edition of '* Esmond" was printed in the obsolete type 
of the reign of Queen Anne, and as only a small 
quantity could be obtained, it took longer than had 
been expected to set up the book. Then the manuscript 
of the third volume was mislaid at the printers, and 
it looked as if the author would have to postpone his 
journey until he had rewritten the missing chapters. 
Happily the manuscript was found ; but Thackeray 
only received his bound copies while he was on the 
pier waiting for the tender to carry him to the ship. 

Thackeray went to Liverpool to deliver a course of 
lectures at the Athen^um in that city on the Tuesdays 
and Thursdays, September 28 and 30, and October 5, 
7, 12 and 14; and to Manchester at the Philharmonic 
Hall on the Wednesdays and Fridays of the same 
weeks. Then he returned to London, going again to 
Liverpool on October 29, in company with Eyre Crowe, 
who was to accompany him to America. That night 
they dined at the house of Mr. Ratcliffe ; t\\Q. piece de 
resistance of the meal being roast sucking-pig — a sur- 
prise for the great man, who loved only beans and 
bacon better. On the following morning Thackeray 
and Eyre Crowe, with their fellow-travellers, Lowell, 
just returned from Italy, and Arthur Hugh Clough, 
embarked on the R.M.S. Canada (Captain Lang). 

The lectures were as highly approved in the pro- 
vinces as in London. At Oxford, where he stayed 
with his old friend Stoddart, the readings were worth 
thirty pounds apiece ; and Cambridge showed itself 
nearly as appreciative as the sister university. At 
Edinburgh, too, they were a great success — a hundred 


subscribers, and two hundred other people for the first 
lecture. Indeed, the audiences there were so large 
that the visit to America, at this time arranged for 
May, hung in the balance. It was not, however, 
abandoned. "I must and will go, not because I like 
it, but because it is right I should secure some money 
against my death for your mother and you two girls,' 
he told his daughters. ''And I think, if I have luck, 
I may secure nearly a third of the sum I ought to leave 
behind me by a six months' tour in the United States." 




Thackeray attacked in an American paper before he sails — a fair chance 
g-iven him on arrival — his first dinner at Boston — in New York — his 
great popularity in the United States — his books better known there 
than in Eng-land — on pirated editions — Thackeray likes America and 
Americans — his objections to personal journalism in the United 
States — " Mr. Thackeray in the United States " — his lectures in New 
York — and elsewhere — " Charity and Humour" — tired of acting the 
lion — his sudden departure for England. 

THACKERAY prepared for his American 
trip in no hilarious frame of mind, and 
while lecturing in Liverpool he was further 
depressed by seeing in a New York paper 
a bitter attack on him. It was, indeed, very doubtful 
what reception he would meet with from the Ameri- 
cans, who, still smarting under the castigation 
inflicted by Dickens in his *' American Notes," and 
thinking of the '*Boz" Tableaux and the Dickens 
Ball at the Park Theatre, not unnaturally said : 
*' Thackeray will come and humbug us, eat our dinners, 
pocket our money, and go home, and abuse us like 
Dickens." The instinct of fair-play, however, is in all 
English-speaking races, and it was tacitly agreed that 
Thackeray in the United States should have his 



'*The passage is nothing now it is over," Thackeray, 
on his arrival at Boston on a frosty morning, said to 
Fields, who at once carried him off to dinner, where 
a joke was played upon him. '' In London," Fields 
has related, "Thackeray had been very curious in his 
enquiries about American oysters, as marvellous stories, 
which he did not believe, had been told him of their 
great size. We apologised — although we had taken 
care that the largest specimen to be procured should 
startle his unwonted vision when he came to the table 
— for what we called the extreme smallness of the 
oysters, promising that we would do better next time. 
Six Falstaffian bivalves lay before him in their shells. 
I noticed he gazed at them anxiously, with fork up- 
raised ; then he whispered to me with a look of 
anguish, 'How shall I do it?' I described to him the 
simple process by which the free-born citizens of 
America were accustomed to accomplish such a task. 
He seemed satisfied that the thing was feasible, 
selected the smallest one in the half-dozen (rejecting 
a large one, ' because,' he said, ' it resembled the High 
Priest's servant's ear that Peter cut off'), and then 
bowed his head as if he were saying grace. All eyes 
were upon him to watch the effect of a new sensation 
in the person of a great British Author. Opening his 
mouth very wide, he struggled for a minute, and then 
all was over. I shall never forget the comic look of 
despair he cast upon the other five over-occupied 
shells. I broke the perfect stillness by asking him 
how he felt. 'Profoundly grateful,' he gasped, 'and 
as if I had swallowed a little baby.' " ^ 

^ J. T. Fields : Yesterdays with Authors. 


Thackeray had been advised to open his tour in 
New York, and he repaired to that city on Novem- 
ber 16, being amused in the train by *'a rosy- 
cheeked little peripatetic book-merchant" crying 
"Thackeray's Works!" from whom he bought ''A 
Shabby Genteel Story " to read on the journey. 
Prescott was his first visitor in New York. "The 
historian is delightful," he wrote to English friends ; 
adding that society at New York was like that of 
"a rich cathedral - town in England — grave and 
decorous, and very pleasant and well-read." One 
evening he heard Bancroft lecture before the New 
York Historical Society ; and on another he was 
initiated into the mysteries of spirit-rapping and 
table-turning at a stance conducted by the notorious 
Home. He met Horace Greeley, the proprietor of 
the Daily Tribune^ in the columns of which he had 
been welcomed to the United States by Henry James, 
father of the novelist. 

The impartiality with which the United States had 
determined to receive Thackeray was, before a week 
was over, turned into a great enthusiasm. "The 
popular Thackeray-theory before his arrival was ot 
a severe satirist who concealed scalpels in his sleeves 
and carried probes in his waistcoat pocket ; a wearer 
of masks ; a scoffer and sneerer and general infidel of 
all high aim and noble character," said a writer in 
Putnam's Monthly Magazine for June 1853. "Cer- 
tainly we are justified in saying that his presence 
among us quite corrected this idea. We welcomed a 
friendly, genial man ; not at all convinced that speech 
is heaven's first law, but willing to be silent when 



there was nothing to say — who decidedly refused to be 
lionised, not by sulking, but by stepping off the 
pedestal and challenging the common sympathies of 
all he met. . . . We conceive . . . the chief merit 
of Thackeray's visit to be that he convinced us of his 
intellectual integrity, he showed us how impossible it 
is for him to see the world and describe it other than 
he does. He does not profess cynicism, nor satirise 
society with malice, and his interests are human and 
concrete, not abstract." 

Within a few days of his arrival in New York 
Thackeray was being feted as he had never been before, 
and luncheons, dinners and suppers in his honour were 
so numerous that he laughingly spoke of his visit as 
*'one unbroken round of indigestion." He was the 
most popular man in the city : to shake hands with 
him even was regarded as a pleasure, to converse with 
him an honour. Judging from the innumerable records 
of Thackeray in America,^ nearly everyone who was 
with him for half an hour must have written down his 
impressions ; and to this day those surviving men and 
women who knew him cherish his memory. *'For 
years I was constantly hearing gossip about Thackeray 
from those who had met him during his visits to us," 
the present American Ambassador to this country (the 
Hon. Whitelaw Reid) recently remarked in the course 
of his speech when he was in the chair of the English 
Titmarsh Club, of which he is a member.^ "Their 

1 Many of these records have been collected by General James Grant 
Wilson, and printed in his interesting volume on "Thackeray in the 
United States." 

^ This speech was subsequently printed as an Introduction to the 
edition of Vanity Fair in " Everyman's Library." 


accounts all ran one way. They admired his talk and 
they loved him. They pictured him as big, hearty, 
and very human. They didn't find him playing the 
lion the least little bit. . . . They pointed out the 
corner in the Century Club where he used to sit ex- 
changing literary chat, or, in Yankee, parlance, 'swap- 
ping stories,' with a group of club men about him. 
They could tell you years afterwards what had been 
Thackeray's favourite chair, and some had even been 
so observant of the least trifles about the great man as 
to know what particular concoction in a club tumbler 
had been his favourite ' night-cap.' " 

It is not surprising that, when the distrust of 
him had vanished, Thackeray should have become 
immensely popular. Long before there was any 
thought of his visiting the United States, his writings 
were better known, and more widely appreciated 
than in his own country. In England he only 
''arrived" with "Vanity Fair," in America his 
"Yellowplush Correspondence" and "Major Gahagan" 
had attracted attention and his career had been followed 
with interest by a considerable public from this time 
forth. The "Yellowplush Correspondence," which 
appeared in Eraser's Magazine in 1837 s-"^ 1838, and 
" Major Gahagan," which was printed in the Nexi) 
Monthly Magazine in the same years, were issued at 
once in book-form in America, though here they were 
not collected until 1841 ; and other of his works, includ- 
ing "Stubbs's Calendar", "The Irish Sketch Book" 
and "From Cornhill to Cairo," were pirated immedi- 
ately after publication. "Jeames's Diary," which 
was not issued in book-form in England until 1856, 


was at once collected there ; and similar honours of 
publication earlier than in the country of their origin 
were accorded to ''The Great Hoggarty Diamond" 
and, indeed, to all the works prior to "Vanity Fair." 
" Vanity Fair ", " Pendennis " and " Esmond " were to 
be had in America almost as soon as in London. This, 
no doubt, is directly attributable to the fact that in the 
United States there was then no protection for Eng- 
lish authors ; and, as there was no royalty to pay, 
their works could be produced more cheaply, and so 
made more accessible to the public. Some publishers, 
however, took the honourable course of paying 
Thackeray a fee ; and among these, to its credit, 
may be mentioned the great house of Harper, which 
paid respectively ;^I50, ;^ioo, and ;^48o for the advance 
sheets of "The Newcomes", "Esmond" and "The 
Virginians." Putnams, too, would willingly have done 
the right thing by him, but their offer could not be 

Messrs. Harpers, who have published my larger 
books and have paid my London publisher for my 
last work, have offered me a sum of money for the 
republication of my lectures, and all things con- 
sidered, I think it is best that I should accept their 
liberal proposal. I thank you very much for your 
generous offer ; and for my own sake, as well as 
that of my literary brethren in England, I am sin- 
cerely rejoiced to find how very kindly the American 
publishers are disposed to us. . . ^ 

Thackeray, who liked money as well as most men, 
was annoyed that piracy was possible, but, since noth- 

^ Puinaffi's Magazine, Vol. IV, p. 68 1. 


ing he could do would alter the state of things, he put 
a good face on it. 

That extreme liberality with which American pub- 
lishers have printed the works of English authors 
has had at least this beneficial result for us — that our 
names and writings are known by multitudes using 
our common mother tongue, who never had heard 
of us or our books, but for the speculators who have 
sent them all over this continent. 

It is, of course, not unnatural for the English 
writer to hope that some day he may share a portion 
of the profits which his works bring at present to 
the persons who vend them in this country ; and I 
am bound gratefully to say myself that since my 
arrival here I have met with several publishing 
houses who are willing to acknowledge our little 
claim to participate in the advantages arising out of 
our books ; and the present writer, having long 
since ascertained that a portion of a loaf is more 
satisfactory than no bread at all, gratefully accepts 
and acknowledges several slices which the book- 
purveyors in this city have proffered to him of their 
own free-will. 

If we are not paid in full and in specie as yet, 
English writers surely ought to be thankful for the 
very great kindness and friendliness with which the 
American public receives them ; and if we hope some 
day that measures may pass here to legalise our right 
to profit a little by the commodities which we invent 
and in which we deal, I, for one, can cheerfully say 
that the goodwill towards us from publishers and 
public is undoubted, and wait for still better times 
with perfect confidence and good-humour.^ 

If the Americans were delighted with Thackeray, he 
in his turn was most agreeably astonished. "You 
know what a virtue-proud people we English are. We 

1 Preface to Appleton's edition oi Mr. Bro-wn's Letters, 1853. 


think we have got it all to ourselves," he replied to the 
Hon. William B. Reed (sometime the United States 
Minister to China), who had asked for his candid 
opinion of the United States. "Now that which 
most impresses me here is, that I find homes as pure as 
ours, firesides like ours, domestic virtues as gentle ; 
the English language, though the accent be a little 
different, with its homelike melody ; and the Common 
Prayer Book in your families. I am more struck by 
pleasant resemblances than anything else." ^ 

You are more tender-hearted, romantic, senti- 
mental, than we are [he wrote later to Reed]. I 
keep on telling this to our fine people here, and 
have so belaboured your country with praise in 
private that I sometimes think I go too far. I keep 
back some of the truth, but the great point to ding 
into the ears of the great stupid virtue-proud English 
public is, that there are folks as good as they in 
America. That's where Mrs. Stowe's book has done 
harm, by inflaming us with an idea of our own 
superior virtue in freeing our blacks, whereas you 
keep yours. Comparisons are always odorous, Mrs. 
Malaprop says.^ 

There was one thing, however, to which Thackeray 
strongly objected : the personal journalism, then 
happily almost unknown in England, but already 
rampant in the United States. He could not escape 
the reporters, and had to bear the trial as good- 
humouredly as possible : he had his tit-for-tat with 
them by satirising the American newspapers in an 
article entitled "Mr. Thackeray in the United States," 
which appeared in Eraser's Magazine^ January 1853. 

^ W. B. Reed: Haud hnmemor — Thackeray in the United States. 
2 Ibid. 

'^53] AN AMUSING SKIT 351 

You cannot help perceiving that the Hon in 
America is public property and confiscate to the 
common weal. They trim the creature's nails, they 
cut the hair off his mane and tail (which is distributed 
or sold to his admirers), and they draw his teeth, 
which are frequently preserved with much the same 
care as you keep any memorable grinder whose 
presence has been agony and departure delight. 

Bear-leading is not so in vogue across the Atlantic 
as at your home in England ; but lion-leading is 
infinitely more in fashion. 

Some learned man is appointed Androcles to the 
new arrival. One of the familiars of the press is 
despatched to attend the latest attraction, and by this 
reflecting medium the lion is perpetually presented 
to the popular gaze. The guest's most secret self 
is exposed by his host. Every action, every word, 
every gesture, is preserved and proclaimed — a sigh, 
a nod, a groan, a sneeze, a cough, or a wink, is each 
written down by this recording minister, who blots 
out nothing. No tabula rasa with him. The por- 
trait is limned with the fidelity of Parrhasius, and 
filled up with the minuteness of the Daguerre pro- 
cess itself. No blood-hound or Bow-street officer 
can be keener or more exact on the trail than this 
irresistible and unavoidable spy. 'Tis in Austria 
they calotype criminals ; in the far West the public 
press prints the identity of each notorious visitor to 
its shores. 

The article was anonymous, but it was almost imme- 
diately recognised as from his pen. It caused as much 
amusement in America as in England, and if in the 
former country some sensitive persons felt a touch of 
annoyance, it was removed when they came to the last 
page, where Thackeray printed the tribute to this land 
which he had delivered at the conclusion of the last 
lecture of the first course of " The English Humourists 
of the Eighteenth Century." 


In England it was my custcm after the delivery of 
these lectures to point such a moral as seemed to 
befit the country I lived in, and to protest against an 
outcry, which some brother authors of mine most 
imprudently and unjustly raise, when they say that 
our profession is neglected and its professors held in 
light esteem. Speaking in this country, I would say 
that such a complaint could not only not be advanced, 
but could not even be understood here, where your 
men of letters take their manly share in public life ; 
whence Everett goes as Minister to Washington, 
and Irving and Bancroft to represent the republic in 
the old country. And if to English authors the 
English public is, as I believe, kind and just in the 
main, can any of us say, will any who visit your 
country not proudly and gratefully own, with what a 
cordial and generous greeting you receive us? I look 
round on this great company, I think of my gallant 
young patrons of the Mercantile Literary Association, 
as whose servant I appear before you ; and of the 
kind hands stretched out to welcome me by men 
famous in letters, and honoured in our country as in 
their own, and I thank you and them for a most 
kindly greeting and a most generous hospitality. At 
home, and amongst his own people, it scarce be- 
comes an English writer to speak of himself, his 
public estimation must depend upon his works ; his 
private esteem on his character, and on his life. But 
here among friends newly found, I ask leave to say 
that I am thankful ; and I think with a grateful heart 
of those I leave behind meat home, who will be proud 
of the welcome you hold out to me, and will benefit, 
please God, when my days of work are over, by the 
kindness which you show to their father. 

Thackeray in the United States found many congenial 
companions, he met Washington Irving, Prescott, 
Ticknor, and Longfellow, and struck up an intimacy 
with William B. Reed and the Baxter family, with 
whom he corresponded during the rest of his life. " By 

i853] IN NEW YORK 353 

jove ! how kind you all were to me," he wrote to Reed. 
** How I like people and want to see 'em again." Cer- 
tainly everybody conspired to make his tour agreeable. 

The business arrangements for the lecturing were 
made so far as possible without troubling him with 
details of the negotiations, and the tour was carried out 
under the auspices of the Mercantile Literary Associa- 
tion, of which institution the president was Millard L. 
Felt. The first lecture was delivered on the evening of 
November 19, in the Church of the Unity, on the east 
side of Broadway, near Prince's Street, a Unitarian 
chapel of which Dr. Chapin (who had recently succeeded 
the Rev. Henry Bellows) was the pastor. Thackeray 
had to read from a rostrum fronting the pulpit, and he 
pretended not to be at his ease until he received the 
assurance that the organ would not accompany his 
utterances. Twelve hundred people were assembled, 
and these included such literary celebrities as Ticknor, 
Bancroft, Bryant, and Greeley. " He is a stout, 
healthful, broad-shouldered specimen of a man, with 
cropped greyish hair and bluish-grey eyes, peering 
very strongly through a pair of spectacles that have a 
very satiric focus," he was sketched by one of the 
audience. "He seems to stand strongly on his own 
feet, as if he would not be very easily blown about or 
upset either by praise or pugilists — a man who scents 
all shams or rumours, straightening them between his 
thumb and finger as he would a pinch of snuff." 

All the tickets for the first course had been sold before 

he landed ; and, thus encouraged, the organisers had 

arranged a second course to begin on December 6. So 

successful was this, too, and the c urse delivered at 

I. — 2 A 

Brooklyn, that before leaving New York, Thackeray 
placed to his credit at his bankers the sum of five 
thousand dollars. A minimum estimate of the lecturer's 
receipts during the first American tour is ^^^2500 ; but it 
is probable that double the amount was realised. 

From Brooklyn, where he met the great Barnum, 
who wanted him to write something in the first number 
of a paper in imitation of the Illustrated London News, 
just about to make its appearance, Thackeray went to 
Boston. "I remember," Fields has recorded of the 
first reading at the great Melodeon Music Hall in that 
city, **his uproarious shouting and dancing when he 
was told that the tickets to his first course of lectures 
were all sold ; and when we rode together from his 
hotel to the lecture-hall, he insisted on thrusting both 
his long legs out of the carriage window, in deference, 
as he said, to his magnanimous ticket-holders."^ 

'* At Boston there is very good literary society 
indeed," he remarked ; and indeed the fact must have 
been very apparent to him when he saw in his first 
night's audience the faces of Longfellow, Whittier, 
Emerson, Holmes, Prescott, and Ticknor. He supped 
with Longfellow ; and went to Cambridge to see Lowell 
who promised: ** You shall either be carried back to 
Boston, or spend the night with us." He became 
intimate with Ticknor, especially on his second visit. 
He invited himself to eat a Christmas dinner with the 
historian and his family ; and on New Year's eve 
watched the New Year in by their fireside, rising on 
the stroke of twelve, with tears in his eyes, to exclaim : 
"God bless my girls, and all who are kind to them." 

1 J. T. Fields : Yesterdays with Authors. 


That prince among humorists, Oliver Wendell 
Holmes, naturally attracted him. " A dear little fellow, 
a true poet," he said. " I told him how much I liked 
his verses, and what do you think he did? His eyes 
began to water. Well, it's a comfort to have given 
pleasure to that kind soul." 

After visiting Philadelphia and Baltimore, Thackeray 
went to Washington, where he was the guest of the 
British Minister, Mr. (afterwards Sir John) Crampton, 
"most hospitable of envoys," Thackeray dubbed him, 
and described his stay in that city as "an interminable 
succession of balls, parties, and banquets." He dined 
with President Filmore, and that personage came to his 
lecture in company with General Pierce, the President- 
Elect. "Two Kings of Brentford smelling at one 
rose," Washington Irving murmured to the lecturer as 
they appeared. In one of the " Snob Papers" Thack- 
eray said the height of rapture must be to walk down 
Pall Mall arm-in-arm with a couple of dukes : lecturing 
before two Presidents was surely only one degree less 

From Washington Thackeray returned to New York 
to give a lecture on January 31, in the Church of the 
Messiah, for the benefit of a Sewing Society of a Uni- 
tarian Church, in which some of his friends were inter- 
ested. He composed for the occasion a special discourse 
on " Charity and Humour," in which he compared the 
humorists of the eighteenth with their successors of the 
nineteenth century. 

Charleston was reached, after many other i)laces 
had been visited, on March 8; and three discourses 
were read in the Hibernian Hall. Thackeray met 


Professor Agassiz, who was also there to lecture: "a 
delightful bonhomrnious person, as frank and unpre- 
tending as he is learned and illustrious in his own 
branch." Savannah followed, where he was the guest 
of Andrew Low, the British Consul ; but the lectures 
were not a financial success, and the attendance was 
smaller than anywhere else on the tour, with the ex- 
ception perhaps of Pittsburg. In April he was back 
at the Clarendon Hotel, New York. He went for a 
couple of days to Albany ; and intended to go to 
Canada — indeed, his appearance at Montreal was an- 
nounced — but he never crossed the border. 

Long before the tour was over Thackeray was 
heartily sick of it and the attendant publicity. Only 
the thought of the benefit that was accruing to his 
children enabled him to continue so long. "Even 
when I am reading my lectures, I often think to myself 
' What a humbug you are, and I wonder people don't 
find you out,' " he exclaimed one day to Bayard Taylor ; 
and he wrote to Mrs. Elliot to say how much he 
desired a week's holiday without his " dem'd lecture- 
box." Suddenly he made up his mind he must return. 
On the morning of April 20 he astonished Eyre Crowe, 
who had arranged for him to visit several towns in the 
middle and western states, by saying : "I see there's 
a Cunarder going this morning. I'll go down to Wall 
Street to see whether I can secure berths in her." His 
quest was successful. He scribbled on a card : 
''Good-bye, Fields; good-bye, Mrs. Fields; God bless 
everybody, says W.M.T." — there was no time for per- 
sonal farewells — hurried down Broadway, got into a 
boat on the east river, reached the Europa to be greeted 


with the cry, "Hurry up — she's starting ! " and landed at 
Liverpool almost exactly six months after his departure. 
The story of his arrival at his house has been charm- 
ingly told by his eldest daughter in the following words : 
"When the long summer and winter were over, and 
the still longer spring, suddenly one day we heard he 
was coming back much sooner than he had expected. 
I believe he saw a steamer starting for home and could 
stand it no longer, and then and there came off. I can 
still remember sitting with my grandparents, expecting 
his return. My sister and I sat on the red sofa in the 
little study, and shortly before the time we had calcu- 
lated he might arrive came a little ring at the front 
door-bell. My grandmother broke down ; my sister 
and I rushed to the front door, only we were so afraid 
that it might not be he that we did not dare to open it, 
and there we stood until a second and much louder 
ring brought us to our senses. ' Why didn't you open 
the door?' said my father, stepping in, looking well, 
broad, and upright, laughing. In a moment he had 
never been away at all."^ 

1 Chapters from some Memoirs, p. 171. 




Santa Barbara 






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